When you're born black in America, there are some harsh truths about life that you just have no chance of escaping: One being that many people in the world will see you as less than human because of the color of your skin and the culture you come from; Secondly that, whether you like it or not, in somebody's eyes, perhaps your own as well, you're a nigga; And thirdly that, because of your skin tone, the police won't always look at you as a human being who they're hired to protect and serve. Instead, you'll often be looked at as a threat that needs to be harassed, controlled or eradicated.
And that script of life played out with deadly results on Saturday, Aug. 9, when 18-year-old Ferguson, Missouri teenager Mike Brown was gunned down by a police officer and left to die in the middle of the street for his entire neighborhood to see.
If you talk with most black people and ask them how they feel about the Mike Brown murder, what you'll like hear is something along the lines of, "Mike Brown was murdered by the Ferguson, Missouri police because he was black and the police tried to cover it up because his life meant nothing to them."
No minced words. No prefacing. No beating around the bush; Just an uncurbed torrent of anger, frustration and sorrow encapsulated in one candid sentence of raw pain.
All around the nation black people are sharing in the pain and tragedy of this murder because, even though none of us want these harsh realities to be true, there's a shared understanding in the terror and sense of solidarity in being harassed, being terrorized and being, well, a nigga in the U.S.A.
For me, that point was driven home last week when I and my group of black gay male friends had a group chat on Facebook about Brown's murder. As we sifted through social media reports from the brave residents of Ferguson, we shared our pain and anger at the photos and videos of Brown's black body lying limp and bullet riddled as his blood turned the concrete streets into a river of crimson. And we continued to watch as resident posted photos of Ferguson's militarized police hurl tear gas, shoot rubber bullets and point their guns as protestors as they held their hands in the air, begging for peace and for justice.
In the end, it was my friend, Chase, who put our collective feeling into one succint and soul-draining statement.
"I'm tired....And I don't want to die like that."
As soon as those words appeared on my computer screen, my heart broke and scattered across my keys, for him, for me and for all of our friends. I know exactly how he feels, and why his heart is tired and weary. Every black person knows exactly how we feel because that terror is attached to both how we're treated by the police and the American government as well as how we're raised by our families.
For most black people, even in these so-called modern times, you learn that you'd better get used to being called a nigga, both as a blood-stained term of endearment from other black people, and as a word of unbridled hate from other races.
And as a so-called nigga, you're taught at an early age that, although it's okay to call the cops if your life is in danger or you've been robbed, don't expect them to show too much sympathy or concern for you, or even show up in a timely manner. Even more grave is that we're taught that any encounter with a cop, especially when you're pulled over or stopped on the streets, can result in the end of your life if you follow a strict set of behavior patterns.
1) Don't dress too black
2) Don't talk or act too black
3) Don't make any sudden movements and always announce whatever move you're going to make.
4) Always say sir, ma'am, or officer.
5) Never raise your voice to them.
6) Always be as cooperative as possible and don't challenge them unless absolutely necessary.
7) Don't fight back
8) Make them feel like you know you're the nigga in this situation, and that you're non-threatening, and that you know who's in power.
9) Stay alive
If you can do all of those things, then there's a strong enough chance that you might not be racially profiled or harassed because you're black, and you may even leave with your life. But the frightening loophole of those rules is that you're still a nigga and the laws that count, laws of the land set up by the majority, police a and the government, weren't all made for niggas and don't always apply to us. So even if you follow all these rules, you could stil end up dead just like Mike Brown, regardless of whether you're innocent, or compliant, or unarmed.
And although there are some black people who we think have transcended their skin tone and are exempt from the harsh realities being just another nigga, a startling tweet posted by Childish Gambino last week reminded me tha all black people know that fear that every black person lives with.