In a bold but decisive move to increase my odds of survival–or at the very least the general public giving a damn–if I die unfairly at the hands of law enforcement officers, please think of me as an animal.
We have gone from being called Negroes to Coloreds, to Blacks, to African-Americans all to no avail. We have railed against being thought of as animals. But maybe we were hasty in that decision. Maybe being thought of as an animal is the key to our survival in a world where it seems more people are outraged at the killing of pets than the killing black human beings. We just have to pick the right animal.
A few weeks ago there was a story making the internet rounds; a woman duct taped the mouth of her dog shut for barking. The social media backlash was instant and fierce.
Last year there was a similar story about a vet who shot a neighborhood cat with a bow and arrow. The world was appalled. All over the country, hundreds-of-thousands shared the story. The rage extended beyond social media as thousands contacted the vet’s place of employment.
All across the spectrum, people connected to this story with outrage and an outpouring of concern for this poor, murdered animal. Social media timelines were inundated with updates on the story’s development. The vet was fired before she even realized that she’d had her fifteen minutes of fame as America’s most hated woman. Authorities sprung into action to see what charges, if any, could be brought against her. Black Americans had the opportunity to see the famed Wheels of Justice at work.
There is certainly a sweet satisfaction in seeing justice done and to see communities come together to make the world a better place for all living creatures. I also noted that I didn’t see one comment where someone stated “Well, the dog shouldn’t have been barking.” or “the cat’s owners should have kept him in their yard, why didn’t they raise that cat better.” not one.
Amid the posts about the vet who killed the cat, one of my online friends posted the following comment: “Hmmm. Again, I think we should call black people ‘kittens’ when we’re murdered.”
I read it, gave a derisive little laugh because it was funny in an absurd, sad, painful way and I moved on.
A few days later that comment was still in the back of my mind; it started to settle deep within me just how much truth was encapsulated in a zinger.
At the time, I had been in more than a few online debates about police brutality regarding Walter Scott’s Murder and then debates over the now ex South Carolina police officer who violently drug a girl from her seat for refusing to leave the classroom.
The prevailing school of thought from the Police Brutality Deniers (PBDs) being, “He shouldn’t have run away!” or “She should have listened.”
The absurdity of these responses is almost laughable. When you present stories where handcuffed suspects have been killed in police custody, they switch to the “well it’s an isolated incident.”
The only thing that seems isolated here is the emotion of compassion when it comes to continued abuse of the African American community by the justice system and apathy is at a premium.
My anger flares when I see stories where extremely dangerous people manage to escape being killed during arrest or for testing the trigger finger of the officers on the scene. (Watch the video, is she reaching for a gun and placing the officers and others around in danger as she flails her hands about around her waist or when she leans back into her car?)
I don’t hear any explanations in regards to the recent leaked report that cops have been framing black suspects for years or why a black woman at home requires a dispatch of 19 officers simply because her neighbor didn’t recognize her. There is a sudden silence that allows these stories to fade away quickly.
These PBD’s are the ones constantly telling me about personal responsibility. They are the same ones who rant that the welfare system is bursting at the seams with welfare queens who are too lazy to work and want a handout. They are the same ones who are furious because Affirmative Action is giving “unfair advantages to undeserving people of color” and is just “reversed racism.”
These people are your “bootstrappers.” They are the, “own up to your poor life choicers.” But somehow it escapes them that maybe the police officers–the ones pulling the trigger and ending lives–might have some personal responsibility in the matter. These deniers absolve police officers of any responsibility.
Nevertheless, the onus is squarely on the shoulders of the African American victim to have known they would be shot and to have performed some Jedi Mind tricks to have avoided being killed. These unstated rules of conduct only seem to apply to certain suspects while armed suspects manage not to follow any of those unspoken rules and live to tell the tale. Yet, if I say systemic racism, they call me a racist but never provide a reasonable reason for this disparity.
So, call my children, my brothers, my sisters, my nieces, and my nephews kittens. Try to see us as a precious, living beings that deserve to live–you know, like kittens.
Maybe we can have that conversation about the deplorable state of race relations without someone jumping in in an attempt to silence me by telling me that “we are all one race and your conversations keep racism alive.” I mean I’ll be a feline, right? I’ll be a whole different species. And perhaps being seen as “other” will be helpful rather than an obstacle.
It is too bad we didn’t think of this before. It’s too bad Tamir Rice wasn’t a kitten. It’s too bad Tanesha Anderson wasn’t a kitten. It’s too bad Yvette Smith wasn’t a kitten. It’s too bad Tarika Wilson and her BABY weren’t kittens, and it’s too bad that Emmitt Till wasn’t a kitten.
Just think of all the kitten lives that could have been saved if we had thought of this centuries ago. We would have alternative pop stars lending their talents to save us, creating commercials so haunting that no one could watch and not be overcome with emotion.
So, black people let’s be animals. Let’s become kittens. Let’s change the dialogue and force society to see us as a living beings deserving of all the benefits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And if this kitten thing doesn’t work out maybe next we can try Dolphins.