Posts Tagged ‘Trayvon Martin’

“ ‘Not Guilty?’ the filthy devils tried to kill me/  When the news gets to the hood the niggas will be/ Hotter than cayenne pepper/  Cuss, buss, kicking up dust is a must.”
Ice Cube – ‘We Had to Tear This MF Up’

The’ Not Guilty’ verdict for George Zimmerman, the killer of  Black teenager Trayvon Martin,  confirms a fact that all Black men know, but hoped had changed.  The fact that many white people view us as a threat.

Zimmerman claimed he was in fear of his life from a 17 year old boy

Zimmerman claimed he was in fear of his life from a 17 year old boy

It doesn’t matter if the Black man in question is well educated and softly spoken. It doesn’t matter if he has not even finished puberty. We are seen as a threat that must be contained. Trayvon was an unarmed teenager, and George Zimmerman was an heavily set 29 year old with an obvious weight advantage, who also happened to be packing a gun.  But still Zimmerman felt that he was the one who’s life was in danger, which could only be preserved by use of lethal force with a deadly weapon.  Even though casual observers can see nonsense of this, the Police could see Zimmerman viewpoint, as they released him without charge on the night of the murder.  A year later in the calm light of day, the six women of the jury could also see the logic of his viewpoint, as they acquitted him of all charges. They too could see how being faced with a young Black male wearing a hoody could put one in fear of their life.

Let’s drop the façade that these trials by jury are about legal argument or points of law.  Let’s be honest, they hinge on the prejudices of the members of the jury. That is why such a big deal is made of jury selection – because the defence know that the most significant factor that influences a jury’s decision, is not be the evidence put before them during the trial, but rather the prejudices they walked into the courtroom with.  The reason that Black celebrity OJ Simpson was found not guilty of murdering his ex-wife Nicole, was not because of the clever legal arguments of his defence team. It was because the Black women of the jury were well aware of the history of violence and lynchings visited on Black men in America, and were not going to send a Black man to jail for killing a white woman, where there was any sliver of doubt.

Is there a 'raging Hulk' inside every Black man?

Is there a ‘raging Hulk’ inside every Black man?

I am not for one minute suggesting that the members of that jury in Florida are all racists that think that all Black men should be put to death.  I’m not even arguing that George Zimmerman thinks that.  But what Zimmerman and those jury members, and so many white people share is the ‘Fear of the Black Man’.  We are viewed like Dr Bruce Banner – the mild mannered character from Marvel comics who, when put under stress will metamorphosis into an uncontrollable beast with super-human strength.

It was a similar thought process held by the Los Angeles police officers who were caught on camera viciously beating Black motorist Rodney King back in 1991.  It took four grown men with night sticks to keep him at bay, and if they were to ease up their beating for just a moment, no doubt King would have risen to his feet, and Lord only knows what kind of violent revenge he would have visited upon them.  The members of the jury at the trial in Simi Valley saw it that way too, when they found the four officers not guilty of using unreasonable force – a verdict which sparked the LA Riots.

Even though the cops who beat Rodney King were caught on camera, they were still found not guilty

Even though the cops who beat Rodney King were caught on camera, they were still found not guilty.

But this ‘Fear of the Black Man’ is not just something felt in America.  Many white people in Britain feel it too. Maybe the Metropolitan police officers who shot to death Azelle Rodney in 2005, and Mark Duggan in 2011 felt that same fear.  Maybe they thought that to alert these Black men of the presence of Police officers would be putting their own lives in danger.  Maybe they thought that attempting an arrest of the suspects would be too risky, and it would be simpler and safer to simply shoot them dead in the street, and worry about issues of due process later.

Maybe it was fear for their lives that the four Police officers who forcibly restrained the mentally unwell Sean Rigg were feeling, until he fell unconscious and died in 2008.

The Police restraint of Sean Rigg resulted in his death

The Police restraint of Sean Rigg resulted in his death.

Maybe that’s what the three G4S officers who were restraining Jimmy Mubenga on board a British Airways flight bound for Angola in 2010 were thinking.  No doubt those security guards felt that his pleas for help and cries that he couldn’t breathe were just a ruse, so that they would loosen their grip and he could break free of his shackles and attack them.  Until he stopped breathing that is.

And God only knows what was in the minds of the Police officers who visited Smiley Culture in his home in 2011, only for the visit to end with a knife in his chest!

This ‘Fear of the Black Man’ can also carry over to ‘Fear of Black Women’.  Maybe that’s what the Police who went to Joy Gardener’s house 20 years ago felt.  In 1993 an immigration officer and police officers arrived at her home to serve a deportation notice, and when Gardner refused them entry, the police entered by force and struggled and fought with her. The officers gagged and restrained Gardner using a body belt and wrapped 13 ft of tape around her head, which they later claimed was to prevent her biting them. Gardner suffocated and subsequently fell into a coma, later dying in hospital. The three police officers involved were found not guilty of manslaughter in 1995. Clearly all concerned thought that 13ft of gaffer tape was a reasonable precaution to take when dealing with an ‘angry Black woman’.

Police were fearful that Joy Gardner would bite them

Police were fearful that Joy Gardner would bite them

All of these examples are of confrontations between law enforcement officers and Black people suspected of a crime.  This naturally heightens the tensions and raises the stakes for all concerned.  But this ‘Fear of the Black Man’ is also something that ordinary brothers face on a daily basis.  This was brought home to me when a friend related an experience he had in his work place.  During a meeting with his white colleagues, this professional Black man was involved in a full and frank exchange of views.  After the meeting had ended, one of his female colleagues pulled him aside and asked if he had calmed down. When he confirmed that he had, she expressed her relief, confiding that back in the meeting she feared that ‘he might stab somebody’.  This white woman who had worked with my friend for years, feared that if he lost his temper he might erupt into murderous violence against his work-mates! If she can fear this from one of her work colleagues who she knows well, then how much more does she fear from a Black man whom she has never met?  How much more from a Black youth she encounters on the street who is wearing a hoody?

The great irony is, as I hope I have shown, that it is us who has more to fear from them, than they do from us. But Black men, since this is what we are facing, how can we protect ourselves and stay safe?  Here’s some tips to remember in your interactions with white people.

1)      Best not to wear a hoody.

2)      Never ever raise your voice or gesticulate wildly.  Although this is the way people of colour naturally communicate, it makes white people nervous, and could escalate any conflict to dangerous proportions.

3)      If you are unfortunate enough to have prolonged contact with the Police or other authority figures, then surreptitious audio and video recording devices, and/or eye witness are recommended. (The come in very handy at the trial).

4)      In interactions with the Police, never argue, resist arrest or make any quick movements, or you could end up dead.

5)      If you’re an immigrant, never overstay your visa, because if they come to deport you, you could end up dead.

6)      If you’re mentally ill, make sure you always take your medication, because if you relapse, and have a psychotic episode that results in the Police being called, you could end up dead.

In summary, just tread very carefully, or you could turn up missing, and judging from past evidence, no one will be convicted of your murder.

RIP,  Smiley Culture, Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg, Jimmy Mubenga, Azelle Rodney, Stephen Lawrence,  Joy Gardener, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin.

trayvon-martin

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Piers Morgan - self satisfied and smug

Firstly let me start with a confession – I can’t stand Piers Morgan. He has that smarmy self-satisfied attitude about him that he shares with three other of my least favourite people, Jeremy Clarkson, Simon Cowell and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.  They give off an air of ‘this is my world, just be happy that I’m allowing you some time in it’.   Normally I’ll change channels to avoid these men, but on Friday night I had to tune into Morgan’s interview with ex-heavyweight boxing champion Frank Bruno.

Frank Bruno - loved by the 'Great British Public'.

I was never a big fan of big Frank either.  Despite being blessed with a powerful physique, his boxing skills were mediocre, and, rather like Audley Harrison, he just never had that killer instinct required to be a boxing champion.

He is not the best boxer Britain has produced either – Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, and Lennox Lewis all had more grit, greater skill and reached higher heights – but the British Public always loved Frank.  But why? We all know that the ‘Great British Public’ prefer a gallant loser to an arrogant winner (see Tim Henman) but it goes much deeper than that.

Being a six foot Black man who’s face doesn’t easily break into a smile, I know personally how intimidating some white people find Black men.  Frank is taller than me, more muscular than me, darker than me, and dare I say uglier than me, and yet the ‘Great British Public’ love him, because unlike Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank, Lennox Lewis and yes, even myself, Frank knows how to make white people feel comfortable.

The humility, the self-depreciating humour, the ever- ready joke, and yes the trademark laugh.  Despite his size and his strength white people can look on Frank and think ‘its ok, we have nothing to fear here’. Frank must have worked out how to do this quite early on in life.  Remember he was expelled from school in his early teens for constant fighting.  Physically large even then, he must have been quite intimidating for his teachers. And yet years later this same man appeared in television adverts for HP sauce and starred in panto wearing a tu-tu.

Frank - emasculating himself for the delight of the public.

As simple as he is, Frank knows that for a Black man to get on in this country, white people have to like you. (As my Grandfather used to say – ‘they hold the handle and you hold the blade’.) With his imposing physical presence that took extra effort for him, so if it requires a little coon-ing and sambo-ing, so be it. (Remember, that Lennox Lewis called Frank an Uncle Tom to his face).

Lennox Lewis called Frank an 'Uncle Tom'.

Just look at the Black men who’ve succeeded in the media in this county –Mr Motivator, Lenny Henry, Ainsley Harriot, Andi Peters  all made careers out of being smiling and inoffensive.  Can you imagine a Black comedian with a dry and serious persona like Jack Dee, or an angry ranting one like Ben Elton getting anywhere in this country?

Ainsley Harriot - modern day minstrel?

Now I’m not hating on Frank, or Ainsley or Lenny or any of those guys.  I can’t diss any black man who’s providing for his family.  I’d rather them, than some irresponsible babyfather with kids all over the place that he’s not providing for, because he’s not prepared to ‘bow and scrape to the white man’.  But while I’m not dissing them, I can’t say that any of them make me feel proud to be Black. Not in the way that self-confident, assertive Black men  Muhammed Ali, or Spike Lee or Usain Bolt does. (Compare and contrast Ali’s classic interviews with Parkinson with Bruno vs. Morgan)

But assertive, self-confident Black men are perceived as threatening  by many white people.  (‘Uppity niggers’ they used to call them in the Southern states of the U.S.). As a Black man you have to take all these proactive measures with white people just to let them know that you’re not a criminal, and you mean them no harm.  Things like smiling, joking, and wearing a suit.  One thing that you cannot do is wear your  hood up.  In many white people’s minds Black man + hoody = criminal.

George Zimmerman - in fear for his life?

Just ask George Zimmerman.  On a rainy night in February he felt so intimidated by Black boy Trayvon Martin (who had just nipped out to the shops to buy sweets, but had made the mistake of wearing a hoody) that he had to shoot him dead just to protect himself.  And apparently the Florida police agreed with his assessment of the situation on the night, because they released him without charge. The Police could see that Trayvon was Black, AND wearing a hoody so concluded that 28 year old Zimmerman was right to fear for his life.  The fact that Trayvon was unarmed and only 17 is irrelevant – he was Black and wearing a hoody.

Trayvon Martin - wrong colour, wrong dresscode?

So for all you Black men out there who are wondering why you can’t get a job, or want to know how to get on in this country, or for all those parents of Black boys who want to keep them safe on the street, here are  some tips for you, inspired by Frank Bruno.

1)       Keep showing them pearly whites – its puts them at ease when we smile.

2)      When confronted by authority figures (teachers, police, neighbourhood watch volunteers etc.) do not raise your voice, and do not gesticulate.  They will interpret that as being aggressive.

3)      Wear a suit – not a hoody (pink is optional).

Have you any other tips to help Black men to put white men at their ease? Feel free to leave a comment.

FOOTNOTE:

Trayvon Martin – Rest In Peace. 

Frank Bruno – Get Well Soon!

Lee Pinkerton