A collective “wyd, sis” sounded out across the Twittersphere when Apple released the trailer for Mary J Blige’s The 411, The Queen of HipHop Soul and R&B’s upcoming sit down with the democratic presidential candidate Secrertary Hillary Clinton.
Twitter immediately decided the video was cringe-worthy and embarrassing but the discomfort for me didn’t come from the fact Mary J Blige was singing about Police brutality- she’s a singer, that’s her tool of activism. I was confounded by the lyrics of the song- American Skin by Bruce Springsteen.
“If an officer stops you, promise me you'll always be polite
And that you'll never ever run away
Promise Mama you'll keep your hands in sight”
Bruce Springsteen, American Skin
Springsteen released the song in 2001 in protest of the police shooting of Amadou Diallo in 1999. Diallo was fired upon 41 times by four New York Police and hit 19 times when they claimed he pulled a gun from his pocket. Investigators did not find any weapon on or near Diallo, but instead did find a square, leather wallet. The officers were granted a trial in Albany, New York instead of New York City as it was felt, they’d receive a more fair trial there. They were then acquitted of the second degree murder conviction they all faced. The New York Police Department led by their commissioner were so angered by Springsteen’s song they boycotted him. My whole question is why?
At it’s core, American Skin teaches the onus is on the victim of police brutality to obey and comply to avoid slaughter; “promise you’ll always be polite” because if you’re not polite, the police will shoot at you 41 times. I know that’s quite an arbitrary reading of the lyrics, but the song does not say “Hey police man, when you see a black man don’t immediately think he’s a criminal who has a gun.” Springsteen sings about a mother instructing her son or daughter the right way to behave in order to not die. This is a problem.
Bruce Springsteen, Mary J Blige and Steve Harvey all unconsciously feed into the narrative that in all instances police are never wrong, that those who die at the hands of over zealous police must work harder to not antagonise officers. Rather than ask police officers to do a better job of not killing people, they ask people, especially black men and women to do a better job of not being shot. This rhetoric bolsters the Comply or Die policing that disproportionately targets people of colour in the United States.
On Boxing Day 2014, Julia Shields dressed in body armour, drove around shooting people and was arrested without incident. That same year, Jesse Deflorio, shot at police with a BB gun and was taken into custody alive. LOL. I’m not going to list them all, but click here to read more about white people who have kept their lives while not adhering to any of the ludicrous tenets in the Springsteen Harvey Blige Manual For Surviving Police Interaction.
The benefit of the doubt offered to white people who commit violent crimes must be afforded to black people who are unarmed and until it is Police must be trained how not to kill black people in routine traffic stops. Some of the police who kill black people are black people themselves speaking to the fact that you do not have to be white to perpetuate white supremacy. *huff* I’m just tired if I’m honest with you. My lethargy is exacerbated by celebrities who mean well but inadvertently uphold ideology that ultimately ties into the common All Lives Matter philosophy that black people die at the hands of police because of their inability to follow instructions instead of the glaringly obvious truth; black people die at the hands of police simply because they are black. It is the minds of those who have sworn to protect and serve that have to change- black people have no choice but to be black and last time I checked, that was not a crime.
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