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Member since: Sat Oct 13, 2012, 08:33 PM
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Dead or in Jail: The Burden of Being a Black Man in America

By Wilbert L. Cooper

Senior Editor

All photos by Awol Erizku

"The day you were born, there was a pine box and a prison cell built with your name on it."

I think that's why the last few years have been so terrifying for me as I've seen the names cycle through from Trayvon Martin to Kimani Gray to Victor White to Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Tamir Rice to Walter Scott to Freddie Gray to Samuel DuBose. I know that no matter how well I play the game, no matter how cognizant I am of the rules, it could happen to me. I think about it when I walk past the police station at the end of my block in Brooklyn. I ask myself: Is today going to be the day they are going to fuck with me? And if so, what will I do? Every time a new video shot on police cameras and bystander's cell phones emerges with yet another black life being smothered across the screen, I feel myself getting one step closer to a kind of nihilism about this country and my place in it.

I can relate to the blinding, hot rage I've seen swallow up so many other brothers of my generation, from the pain they foolishly inflict against one another because their arms can't reach the system to the pain they inflict upon themselves because they are trying to escape the realities of the everyday. It's in those fits of anger that I wonder, Were we always destined to live and die this way, like savages in the street or alone in cold cells? And if this is it, why did our parents have us at all? Why bring us into this world where our lives are short and wracked with pain?


But even if we manage to avoid the death-or-jail-cell quagmire my father warned me about, there's still the plantation in our minds to contend with. The terror we live under today may not be comparable to that of the 1860s, but the fear, the humiliation, and the emasculation remain in subversive and subtle forms, creeping in and crippling us from the inside. Of course, not every altercation between the police and black youth ends in death, but the indignities we endure every day take a different kind of toll. They chip away at our personhood, our humanity, and can very easily make us meek—or else a uniquely American breed of monster.

When I first began to tune into the slew of cryptic videos and horror stories that have been arriving by the boatful in the last few years, I wanted to weep. What I did instead is weep inside until my emotional well went dry. And then I started to feel nothing but a gnawing angst, searing through the sides of my belly.

It's that burning feeling that at one time made me certain I would never bring another black child into this world. For what? To be beaten, to be caged, to be taught to hate himself and everyone who shares the same skin as him? There was a time when I couldn't imagine subjecting anyone else to that curse, that burden.

Read More http://www.vice.com/read/dead-or-in-jail-the-burden-of-being-a-black-man-in-america-804?utm_source=vicetwitterus

It is a long read, so powerful. So much pain, fear and despair yet the last line gives me hope, that they will overcome.

I am weeping.
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