I’ve never had a real run in with the law, and don’t expect to – ever:
- My Caribbean family’s ‘central planning’ saw me grow up, go to school, and habituate in/to white American middle class spaces/ways;
- Blackness marks, but so does whiteness. Thus, even at Howard, surrounded by what was at that time the sketchiest neighborhood I’d ever been in, my classmates and I, protected by the college’s step-closer-to-whiteness aura, were generally safe from crime or unwarranted policing;
- Now, only in my professional capacities as artist/teacher do I frequent spaces that *might* code my Blackness as a criminal threat; I teach in “urban” schools, work with “urban” youth, and drive through “urban” neighborhoods to get to art, but I live in the ‘burbs.
Some people, like my male Black/Latino/Muslim students, expect run ins with the law at all times in all places. I imagine poor people of color do, too. But, like all Blacks in the United States – regardless of class – I have a. plan in the event of a run in with the law, and b. an acute awareness of where such an encounter might take place.
Which is the problem I have with some of Occupy Our Homes’ tactics. I went to see a play, and as part of the play, a white-appearing woman demonstrated ways that activists could keep homeowners in their homes while they fight bank foreclosure/evictions. These strategies put activists’ bodies in direct contact with law enforcement. Red flag! Red flag! Dealing with the law is an entirely different reality for people of color when compared to the reality for white activists.
Over the next 24 hours, I watched as men and women came and went, many with cuts, bruises, and welts. I asked several of them how they’d been injured, and they described fierce struggles with the police. One young man cradled what he reported was a broken wrist. Another pulled up his shirt and revealed three Taser burns. Yet another removed his fitted cap and pointed to a swollen knot on his head. I exchanged uncomfortable glances with the few other white men in the cellblock.
“Did they treat you like that?” I whispered.
“No.” We held out our wrists to compare.
I won’t be putting my body in front of law enforcement as a part of weekend grassroots actions anytime soon.
Click here for whole of the interview. Interesting excerpt below:
Do you think auction houses do these sales in France because they feel like they can get away with it there and they couldn’t here?
Going back to April, when we first started investigating and researching these types of sales, I came across numerous articles [about] people facing with the same challenge. Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, a lot of South American countries, even African nations. A lot of their items being put up for sale in the country of France. What I’ve come to recognize and realize is that they view things from a secular perspective where spiritual beliefs are oftentimes put to the side, especially if it’s not understood. Once something is transported or taken away from where it originated, it loses all sacred value. In this case if it went from one French citizen to another French citizen it’s seen merely as a transaction. We have to go back further and visit the origins of that. Were they given the authority? Was it a legal transaction? For the Hopi, it’s not. These sales are continuing to happen, some of them on a small scale, some of them on the scale of this one. The way that their courts and their laws are interpreted we have to understand that it is in another country. They have their sovereign rule, but it also has to be considered how other people around the world are viewing these things.
So would you call yourself an activist for your community?
I wouldn’t label myself as an activist. I’m a member of the tribe and I’m charged with certain cultural obligations and responsibilities and unfortunately this has become part of it, to protect what we deem valuable and culturally significant to us. In the Hopi perspective, I work for everybody. Not just for my people or my family, but for all humanity across the world. If something good can come from this and the work that we are doing for others, then it’s all the better.
It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others…
If I could, I’d footnote Du Bois’s articulation of double-consciousness to say that it means belonging to two hive minds – the narratives of mainstream white society, and, simultaneously, those of the Black community. This clarification leaves space for a third (and perhaps other) consciousness: the self as constructed as a result of and regardless of those hives. Language is how we negotiate consciousness, giving any gesture at least three context-bound meanings…