It has been three weeks since Michael Brown― an unarmed African American teenager —was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. His death has sparked several days of protest in his community and across America against the brutal execution of young black men by a majority white police. Once again, a young black man has lost his life for seemingly no reason other than the color of his skin. We know too well this scenario and how it will end up. The policeman will be found not guilty of any wrong-doing while the black community stays awake at night wondering who among them is next. It seems like there isn’t much they can do other than cry out loud that they are outraged by America’s casual acceptance of racial injustice. Amidst this tumult, I have yet to hear the black immigrant communities raise their voices against the victimization of native-born blacks. Where are the Africans, the Haitians, the Jamaicans and other black immigrant communities in the US?
African immigrants might think that we are beyond police brutality because we are different, we speak with an accent and try to raise our children to be the “good blacks,” by playing it safe, minding our business, and abiding by the law. However, staying on the sidelines will not protect us from racism and racial profiling. The police that killed Amadou Diallo in 1999 is the same police that is indiscriminately shooting and killing young black men in 2014. This police will not ask to hear your accent no will it inquire about where you are originally from before riding bullets across your body. More importantly, our children are not different from African Americans. They do not always speak with an accent or walk with the African swagger that we use to recognize each other. They are blacks in America. That and only that, makes them immediate targets of racial profiling, and eventually police brutality.
As immigrants, we might feel that America is just a temporary home and that sooner or later we will go back to our countries of origin, but for now, this is where we live and work, and this is where our children were born and will likely live the rest of their lives. Right now, this is the only home we’ve got and it is in our best interest to make it safe for us. I understand that most of us do not identify with the African American community, and we should not because many of us became black when we came to America. Culturally we are different, but when it comes to racism and racial discrimination, all blacks are treated the same. Keeping quiet and telling our encounters with racism and racial prejudice only in our private homes, and acting as if whatever is happening in the black community does not concern us, will not save us. It only makes us more vulnerable because when racial injustice imminently befalls our communities, we will not be equiped with the means to fight back. We need to be more involved in our communities, school boards, and local government. We need to show that we do not support the victimization of other black people by rejecting the fallacy of being “the good black” because when it comes to racism and racial profiling, all blacks whether native-born or immigrants, are suspects until proven innocent.
Few days ago, I attended a last minute event organized in my community in remembrance of Michael Brown and those killed by police brutality. There were only four of us, and I was the only black person. Sitting there and chatting with the three white participants, I wondered whether I had any business being there. Then driving home and reflecting on the events surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and now Michael Brown, I felt tremendous fear and anxiety for my sons. I imagined them as teenagers and young men, and realized that they would not look any different from Trayvon or Michael. They would wear hoodies and walk in dark alleys at night, they would go out at night to a dance club or just hang out with their friends; they will be young black men in America. This vision made me realize that I too should publicly protest the killing of Michael Brown for the human being he was, for the dreams he had that we will never see realize, and for the sake of my children, I should scream that black lives matter too. I should extend my hand to Michael Brown’s mother and tell her that I feel her pain, that I too am scared for my sons.
I am not condoning Michael Brown’s alleged crime nor am I supporting the looting and chaos that happened during the protests. I am also not saying that all police officers engage in racial profiling. However, we do know that blacks are more likely to be arrested for routine violations and petty crimes. Since the election of Barack Obama, there seems to be an heightened fear of the black man. For these reasons, I do feel that black immigrants should have joined the protests in Ferguson, and they should have raised their voices against the shooting and killing of unarmed young black men across America. I wrote the draft of this post on Tuesday morning last week, and on Thursday, this article appeared in the Guardian. I am glad I am not the only one who feels this way.
I look forward to your comments.