“A cop kills a kid and makes headlines all across the world. Granted, this has been going on for years now—not to call all cops “kid killers”—but it happens. Then, you got black people killing each other every day, actually outnumbering the police (killings.) (That violence) is actually internal. Why should I sit here and glorify some media hype about police and all this other stuff when in all reality the problem is internal? When you follow propaganda you kind of get lost within society’s manipulation. There’s always a motive.”
A$ap Rocky, Black Hollywood Today
2014 was a brutally honest year for the United States, some might call it an intervention. Now firmly nestled in the summer heat of 2015, many of us are still rehabilitating. Daily life is still punctuated with NWA-like moments. A cop car will roll by and both minority and white folks stiffen up. When a nightly arrest is made in the city we form crowds. Any wrong move can become a block-wide scene. It feels like any sign of police insolence must be stamped out. While the tanks have left the suburban neighborhoods of Florissant, many areas of Ferguson are still detoxing. In the highway traffic I peek at the cinders of crumpled laundromats with knee-high weeds sprouting from the cracked tar. The Krispy Kreme a few streets down is still standing and I catch myself laughing. We didn’t think about the need to wash clothes when we torched the laundromat, but we knew we couldn’t burn down the hot-n-ready donut stop lol. Kanye West’s “All Day” is playing in the car and his outro sneaks up on me. “HANDS UP!” the speaker blares out, and I feel a chill. I keep waiting for the follow-up “Don’t shoot!” but it doesn’t come. Instead the tune simply leads into some random vocals. I swallow hard as I turn off the highway onto a familiar street. I decelerate and peep some shirtless Crips on the sidewalk with their white socks neatly tucked into sparkling blue shoes. I smile at them and they throw me a head-nod at the red light. A police car creeps up to the intersection, and both the Crips and I shoot the officer a cold stare. Gotta love my city. I remember watching people scatter when the police came by. Now we almost defiantly stand our ground. We have always been defensive with them, but now it feels different.
Last summer I watched my hometown burn neighborhoods to the ground, this summer I watch my DC neighbors in Baltimore burn cars to their molten frames. In a year our nation’s justice system has gone up in flames. The abuse, violent offenses, and murders of black men have been used as a political bonfire. Every church, organization, and politician scratching for clout has jabbed their red hot poker into the fire. Meanwhile, the nation is struggling to unravel over 200 years of systemized oppression fact by fact, question by question, stitch by stitch. While some of my generation tries to untangle, some of us just try not to get tripped up. We have been pulled by the shredded threads of Al Sharpton’s perm, the splits within the Civil Rights movement, MLK’s extramarital affairs, and the crashed Black Panther Party. The so-called glory days that were preached to us every February through the three martyrs of MLK, Rosa Parks, and that one guy who did that thing with the peanuts have lost their third-grade charm. When gang bangers are tweeting #blacklivesmatter, are we acknowledging the hypocrisy in our community? When #iftheygunnedmedown trends on Twitter we pause, and sift through which imminent threat is trying to gun us down. Is it the Crip I just smiled to? The police officer we just sneered at? The carjacker waiting in the next parking lot? For the modern urban millennial, who do black lives matter to? They’d better matter to us.