I’m writing this post from my community pool. That’s significant because I can look out upon this little space and see something all too rare in America. Our little West Philly pool is a truly diverse space, and in my line of sight are multi-racial groups of kids and families playing together. It’s something I probably take for granted too often for how special it is in this country, but in the wake of the death of Alton Sterling, it stands out to me today.
I didn’t know what to say at first. I felt, like others have, frustrated, angry, sad at yet another unnecessary death of a black man at the hands – and guns – of the police. There is, as others have said, an urge to say little. But Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas wrote brilliantly today and urged us again to “So cry new tears. Write new words. Craft new prayers. Attend new marches. Channel new anger. Feel it all again. Every bit of it.” And so I write.
The promise of this country is everywhere. The possibilities and progress is here to be had. But we are a country drunk on racism and drunk on guns.
And together, those two things are a toxicity that will erode the best, most noble ideals of what America can be.
In my line of sight right now are a group of boys of about middle-school age. They are a diverse group of kids playing together in the pool, laughing and enjoying summer as only kids can do. It is easy to lose yourself in that moment and see only the promise, only the good. But outside the walls of this community pool, the rules are much different for the white boys than the boys of color – especially the black boys.
There is a far greater chance that the interactions the black boys will have with the police will end in tragedy than for the white boys.
There is a far greater chance that this nation will tell the black boys what they cannot do than tell the white boys that.
There is a far greater chance that the world will teach the black boys what it means to be hated and feared because of the color of their skin than the white boys.
There is a far greater chance that young black boys will have their lives deeply impacted by gun violence than the white boys.
Alton Sterling died early Tuesday morning at the hands of the Baton Rouge police. The video of his death is beyond difficult to watch. But we don’t need to watch it to know that another black man died at the hands of the police.
We are a nation drunk on guns and drunk on racism. For too many African-American men and women, that has become a deadly combination.