In Part two of my three part series discussing the aftermath of the Starbucks incident I want to focus on lessons for Black men. It is clear to anyone who is familiar with this incident that the victims were not singled out because of their socio-economic status, they were not singled out because of their actions, they were not singled out due to their religious beliefs or their sexual orientations. They were singled out, arrested, and dehumanized because they were Black.
The first lesson I want to share is one that each of us as Black men have probably heard more than one thousand times. As a Black person, particularly a Black male you have to be constantly on guard. It’s not right, but it is real. It’s a reality that in 2018 in the United States of America and beyond being Black comes with an extra tax that white people don’t pay. I am not saying that it won’t ever change but currently that is the reality. I believe the two men who were victimized in this incident were able to remain calm because they knew this rule to be true and were mentally and physically prepared for the attack. I didn’t say they expected it, I said they were prepared for it. Most Black men that are killed during these type of incidents are killed because they were not prepared for the attack to be directed at them. Their mistake is to believe that their education, finances, attire, and innocence would protect them. They did not expect to be accosted and as such are shocked and respond in ways that will be used to justify their deaths. The two Black men in Starbucks didn’t like what they were experiencing, but they knew what to do while experiencing it. We need to keep having “the talk” with our young Black brothers and sisters because it seems to be the only thing that is able to protect them right now. We need to remind them that the world is not fair, that being Black not only means being twice as good to get half as much, it means being twice as aware in order to stay half as safe. Being Black means that you never take for granted that people, law enforcement, or the system is going to recognize your humanity, treat you fairly, and fight for your survival. There will always be exceptions to those rules and when those exceptions present themselves Black people can breathe a sigh of temporary relief, but until then we need to stay vigilant.
The second lesson for Black men is to always understand what your options are. The two Black men in Starbucks had a complete understanding of what their choices were and made decisions that made it clear to everyone in the area that they were innocent victims. Their actions or lack of action is what inspired bystanders to to speak up, and record the incident. In watching the video you see that the two Black men maintained their dignity while attempting to defend themselves from an unprovoked assault on their rights. Let’s play out their options so that you completely understand what I am saying. Option 1, scream, get loud and declare that you don’t care who the police are, you didn’t do anything and you ain’t going no where. Result, guns drawn more officers called, still arrested but possibly physically assaulted or killed. Option 2, physically resist. Result, guns drawn more officers called, still arrested but possibly physically assaulted or killed. Option 3, the combo. Use foul language and physically resist. Result, guns drawn more officers called, still arrested but possibly physically assaulted or killed. Option 4, remain calm allow the officers to do what they claim is their duty be arrested and fight the charges and case using the system. Result, you are arrested, other people are incensed and outraged at your treatment and a firestorm of support is garnered for you. I hate suggesting that Black men should allow themselves to be arrested when they know they are innocent, but I am a staunch believer in the number one rule of human nature, self preservation. I want Black men to live long enough to fight the injustices they experience. I want Black men to create hashtags, not be remembered by one.
The third and final lesson for Black men in this instance is to learn to forgive. Yes, forgiveness has to be part of this experience. The two Black men have to learn how to forgive the manager who initiated this incident, the police who escalated it, and a nation that promotes the notion that Black men are always in need of monitoring, control, incarceration or extermination. The CDC has listed heart disease in the top five leading causes of death for Black men in the age range of 20 - 54. I believe in part a lot of this heart disease is due to our inability to forgive. Think about it, we are faced with a tax for just being Black and are acutely aware of that tax even if the majority of our white brothers and sisters never experience it nor believe in it. We know it is unfair and that we live in a nation that is supposed to be for us but more often than not is actually out for us. The stress of knowing this and constantly being mad about it eats away at our heart slowly but surely. Even if you believe that racism is not real, the consequences of racism are real. Heart disease is real. If we don’t learn to forgive and release ourselves from the burden of carrying the pain of resentment with us everyday then we are ultimately killing ourselves, practicing slow suicide. If we don’t learn to forgive then we also run the risk of becoming what so many white men are becoming more frequently lately, homicidal. The number of white men involved in mass shootings is epidemic, but that is a lesson and discussion for another day. This message is for and about Black men.