Hiding From Monsters

We all hide from monsters sometimes. Part of the Doctor Who legacy continues to be its penchant for sending its younger fans hiding behind the relative safety of the sofa, terrified of the monster of the week. We all hide from monsters, but sometimes for different reasons.

I haven’t written a word about Ferguson or the killing of Michael Brown in part because I hid behind the sofa. Though I kept up with the story, I found it hard to put words together. Hadn’t I said all this before? The Big Scary Black Man syndrome reared its ugly head again. This time, an obtuse police overreaction accompanied the unnecessary killing of an unarmed young black man. And a whole community was brutalized as a result.

I saw the military equipment and gear used by the Ferguson police department and all I could do was sit slack-jawed. The worst memories and stories from the past returned. My family lived well within the zone of LA affected by the Watts Riots. Tanks rolled down the streets, they told me. My parents had a hard time getting groceries, including formula for the youngest Russell at the time, the future writer and blogger, because the stores could not receive deliveries. South Central LA had effectively been blocked off from the rest of the city, indeed from the rest of the world.

My first thought about Ferguson was that it seemed a land cutoff from the rest of the world, a throwback to the 50s: a majority black town with a largely white government and police force. In 2014? This was a monster I thought we had defeated long ago.

The question isn’t about my hiding behind the sofa to spare my psyche from this rerun of history. The question is, who else continues to hide from the reality of race in the US? Who continues to believe that there is no racism? Who believes that unarmed black men should be shot when they don’t do or say exactly the right thing, whatever that is? Who thinks that it is normal to use military equipment, and loads of teargas, to quell peaceful demonstrators?

The true terror of the Ferguson experience is the revelation that all of these monsters continue to bedevil us. The Big Scary Black People doctrine remains as firmly entrenched now as it did in the 1950s and 60s. In the minds of those who adhere to this doctrine, the police reaction in Ferguson seemed perfectly normal. It’s a means to an end, to keep “those people” from getting out of hand.

Some folks fear black rage, not just because black people are “scary,” but because they know that black folks have been wronged for so long. They project how they would react to such a legacy of mistreatment then fear such a reprisal. Such people would rather hide behind their sofas, and let the police deal with it, rather than look within themselves and discover how their attitudes contribute to the very problem of race in the US.

I hide behind the sofa to maintain my sanity because being black 24/7 can be wearing on the nerves. But others hide to avoid the issue altogether. And that’s not helpful.

© 2014, gar. All rights reserved.

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