The Price You Pay for Being Aware

You mad?

That phrase in all of it’s grammatically incorrect glory has been asked for centuries. Over the last few years, it’s been asked of me. Why, you ask?

Because I talk about my racial experiences.

Let me be transparent. The societal construct of racism has always interested me. Initially, it was due to my experiences as a child. As I grew up, I became interesting in the sociology and psychology of racism. As I’ve graduated college and

I was having conversation with a friend the other day regarding race relations. My friend is white (par for the course in North Dakota), and he had race related questions he wanted to ask. I agreed to hear him out, and he asked his most burning race questions. I was asked one of the legendary questions geared specifically towards African Americans.

Why are black people so angry?

Usually, hearing this question makes one, well, angry. Why? Because it reeks of ignorance on how day to day life can be for black folks. There are certain things black people deal with that white folks don’t. That should go without saying, but in 2021 America it needs to be reiterated – over and over and over and over – until people get it. In his defense, he didn’t ask the question verbatim, but that’s the point he was making. I thought about it, and we have to change the narrative. But before we do that, let’s review some things.

I just watched LA 92; a documentary on The L.A. Riots. Those riots are the worst in history totaling over $1 Billion dollars in city damages (including Ferguson 2014 and Baltimore 2015). Why were people mad? Rodney King was beaten by officers, and for the first time on a national stage, it was recorded. The nation saw officers mercilessly beating King while he rolled on the ground.

Around the same time as the King incident, Latasha Harlins was murdered by Soon Ja Du, a Korean immigrant store owner, over a bottle of orange juice. Du thought Harlins was stealing the orange juice and proceeded to confront her grabbing her sweater. Harlins punched Du in the face and tossed the bottle of orange juice neck one the counter. As she turned to walk out, Du shot Harlins in the back of the head. A recording of the incident was captured by store security cameras.

These two incidents are perfect examples of why black folks get angry with the justice system. For Harlins, Du miraculously avoided jail time in favor of 400 hours of community service and a $500 fine even though she shot Harlins in the back of the head. Harlins was only 15 years old. For King… Well we know the rest and it’s an all too familiar story. The LAPD was acquitted of all charges regardless of the video clearly detailing what happened.

Sound familiar?

Violence and discrimination is continually justified against African Americans. You can even look to the response to last week’s Capitol Riots versus the Black Lives Matter protests. It’s clear black people are seen as more dangerous and we are treated as such. From the courthouse to Joe Random on the internet, the idea that black bodies are expendable and black experiences are exaggerated is repeatedly perpetuated. Even by some of our own people! In turn, you have generations of Black folks who are tired. That tiredness you see is often confused with anger. The passion for equality? Also confused with anger.

So, when you ask me why I’m so mad I want you to know that I’m not. Even though I may have a just cause to be so? I’m not mad. I’ll tell you what I am, though. I’m passionate. I’m aware. I’m knowledgeable. I’m intelligent. I’m articulate. I’m observant. I’m everything you don’t want me to be.

But I am most certainly not mad.

This one is for Rodney. Rest well, King!


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