Not Guilty Ya'll Got to Feel Me: How I'm Innocent but All of Black America is Guilty

Friday, December 5, 2014 | 0 Comment(s)

Today was my day in court.

If you recall, in late October I had a number of unpleasant run-in's with the Pō-Pō regarding my car's inspection sticker. In particular they took umbrage at its expired nature.  If you'd like to refamiliarize yourself with the case that they gave me, those pieces are here and here.

Court was scheduled for 9:30am, so I woke up early to reread my blog posts (after all, what's the point of writing recaps of life events if not to remind you of exactly what happened when you've forgotten over a month later).  Next, I went upstairs to craft the perfect court outfit -- I am soooo Elle Woods.

The choices I made in my dressing room this morning resonated inside me.  Every other morning I throw on a t-shirt, dark jeans, and a hoodie.  Maybe a vest on top.  No hoodie in my ensemble today, however.  Collared shirt, khakis, and a tie.  It should be mentioned that when I finally made it to court, I was amused to see three other guys waiting along with me who were ALL wearing the exact same semi-formal combination (down to the blue shirts).  The only difference between us was our individual tie choices, which it was clear was the product of a dearth of options all around.

It needs to be said. All but one of the people in the courthouse today was White.  Everyone waiting to make their appearance in court, every clerk, the police officers in the building, the police's court representative, and the judge.  And while Northampton certainly is a hot bed of sexual diversity more so than racial diversity, there are plenty people of color in this town.  And I couldn't help but think how much more nervous I'd be to walk into that courtroom were I a person of color.  As it stood, even though the officer who ticketed me was obviously within his rights to do so, as my inspection sticker had expired five months prior, I felt pretty sure that I would win the day.   Were I living back in Japan, where I was the only White face in town, I don't think I would have been as confident in my predicted acquittal.

And . . . well . . . a cop choked a Black man to death on camera in NYC and a grand jury didn't feel there was enough evidence to every try the murderous police officer.  Police officers have been granted legal immunity to kill Black people, so I wouldn't blame any of my minority friends from being nervous to sit down in a courtroom in Northampton to ask for justice -- more and more it feels like one needs to clarify to which justice we are referring.  White people justice or Black people justice -- cause we have lost our ability to argue that they're the same thing.

I was found not guilty.  Between the receipts from the autobody shop (both visits) and the Inspection sticker forms (both the one I had to fail to get a rejection in order to not get pulled over again and the later passed inspection), the judge could tell I had taken the necessary steps after my first warning not to warrant further action.  Yay.  They did not refund my $25 court fee however.  I decided not to ask about it as I was afraid they might consider it ungrateful.  Which I was -- cause fuck the police.

I didn't feel happy leaving the courthouse.  Sure I was pleased my insurance rates won't get hiked up, but the whole justice system is too complex (aka fucked up) right now to leave a courtroom giddy at my absolution.  So I'm innocent and the whole Black community is guilty before committing a crime.  There is no fairness in America for us to strive towards. The system is rigged. This is something the Black community has always known, and White people who are paying attention can no longer pretend to ignore.

And while I have a few things to share on this subject, and will do so momentarily, I want to point to a few articles by Black authors -- who have outlined White Privilege and the Black Experience in modern America in a way I will never be able to. Please read:

My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK

Can You Breathe? Reflections on Non-Indictments, Activism and Black Life

The American Justice System Is Not Broken

Let's all agree that these are just a sampling. But man, to me they are just so powerful.  The honesty with which the problem is clarified seems unassailable.  In college I learned that the term SNAFU began as a military acronym.  It stands for "Situation Normal, All Fucked Up."  At the moment, it stands for America.

Here are the points within this issue that I want to make clear.

1.  This is not a Black problem.  I mean this in two ways.  The first is, that the problem we are dealing with has much more to do with White's enjoying their unequal standing under our laws and not wanting to recognize that the deck is weighted in their favor and so they pretend there is no problem to begin with. Realize that the Black voices you hear are crying out for justice and equality for all -- it is those people fighting for continued inequality that have the problem.

But I also mean that this deeply engrained racial injustice, which is just beginning see the backlash of protest movements and loud voices, is weakening us as a country and as humans. It is repulsive. The bile and blatant racism that has bubbled to the surface on Facebook and Twitter in response to a call for fairness -- not justice, as that term has too long been dangled in front of Black faces in order to give them the illusion of hope -- but fairness.

We are living in an unfair society.  Ironically, kept that way by another minority -- those with the vast majority of the wealth in this country.  And they don't want to share.  Black people are getting the rawest deal in this country (save maybe American Muslims), but they aren't alone.  And this is one of those times when it's imperative to speak out now, and not to wait for the problem to make its way to your doorstep.  Because it IS coming to your doorstep -- through a financial crisis, or the marginalization of the poor, or the unrest of the society around you -- this is not a Black problem, this is our country ripping apart at the seams.

What a great transition to my next point . . .

2. This upheaval, this movement gaining momentum, is not going away.  It is not a phase.  Do the math yourself.  First, you have a population fighting for their right to live without fear -- for the right not to fear that their children will be gunned down if they make the risqué parenting decision at Toys "R" Us, to get their child a water gun.  These are the highest stakes imaginable.  

Second, this issue won't get drowned out by the next news cycle, cause this shit is happening every day around the country. (Edit: since I wrote this piece yesterday there was another black life lost at the hands of  police officers in the news) It just hasn't gotten a national spotlight directed on the hypocrisy until now.  Each news cycle will just bring more and more cases in support of this #blacklivesmatter movement -- cases that will cost the Black community lives that are living and breathing right now.  The Black community will pay for their equality with more lives lost.

This is why White voices need to scream out in support of fairness. We support our troops during wars we don't agree with, because they may give everything while we stay safe at home under their protection.  This is the same exact thing.  Black lives sacrificed to advance our society forward, while we stay safe at home enjoying that progress -- touting our first-world ideals to the global community which knows better than to believe our bullshit.

3. And this one is bitter sweet.  The timing of this upheaval is NOT random.  If you don't think there are a bunch of old (rich) White people shitting bullets over the impending and unquestioned truth that soon White will be the minority color in this country, you crazy.  And when all of this misery and hate and prejudice draws me to a deep dark place, the thought of their impotent fear, and their inability to stop the locomotive of progress (even after they try blowing up the tracks) makes me smile in a way that I would have to describe as hope.

#blacklivesmatter because all lives matter.  We'll either learn it now through social action, or will learn it later under #thenewmajority. I for one, welcome our new overlords.  They can't be worse than this.

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