The Price of Blackness by Lanre Akinsiku

I came across this piece last night on Gawker while I was discussing the ins and outs of the justice system from the Black male perspective.  That’s an entirely different post for some other time.

In The Price of Blackness, Akinsiku relates one of his stories of an interaction with police.  Most of us Black men have them, whether we tell you or not.  It’s almost a rite of passage of sorts.  I’ll let him explain it.

To be black and interact with the police is a scary thing. The fear doesn’t have to come from any kind of historical antagonism, which, trust me, would be enough; it can also come from many data points of personal experience, collected over time. Almost all black men have these close-call-style stories, and we collect and mostly keep them to ourselves until one of us is killed. You know how the stories go: I was pulled over one day and the cop drew his gun as he approached my window; I was stopped on the street, handcuffed and made to sit on the sidewalk because the cop said I looked like a suspect; I had four squad cars pull up on me for jaywalking. We trade them like currency. And it almost goes without saying that these stops are de facto violent, because even when the officer doesn’t physically harm you, you can feel that you’ve been robbed of something. The thing to remember is that each of these experiences compounds the last, like interest, so that at a certain point just seeing a police officer becomes nauseating. That feeling is fear.

Now, many of us Black men have friends or family that work in law enforcement.  Even with that, it’s still a somewhat frightening experience when you see those blue lights approach you and the officer exits the vehicle.

The other day, I was reading comments about people and their interactions with being pulled over.  One person mentioned how he told the officer that he had a gun in his vehicle.  He went on to say that he and the officer had a lengthy conversation about guns and such.  Now, contrast that with a friend of mine who is an officer.  He got pulled over by another officer.  When my friend told the officer that he had a gun in the vehicle, the officer unholstered and drew his weapon while dropping back behind the vehicle, ready to open fire on my friend.  Guess which one was White and which was Black?

I’m not going to suggest that every officer is like that, because I know that’s not the truth.  However, there is a certain amount of fear amongst us in anticipation of encountering the quick draw officer when we’re stopped.  I simply offer this perspective as America goes on yet another soul search because of the events happening in Ferguson, MO.



2 thoughts on “The Price of Blackness by Lanre Akinsiku

  1. Bro, I’m in a bit of a bad mood today about cons and guns, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I say something that isn’t measured and reasonable.

    I don’t think America is doing any soul searching at this point. Positions have hardened. Those of us on the left are offended and outraged by the police. Those on the right have concluded that the store video proves Brown was a thug and probably deserved every bit of what he got and the riots prove the entire population of Ferguson — really, the entire black community — is just the same. There are no longer any hearts and minds to be won.

    It’s clear the officer will not be sanctioned. The Ferguson PD has a huge stake in proving the shooting was justified, partly to protect one of their own and partly because they know any admission of error on their part is going to cost money. They are no more conducting an open-minded investigation than a doctor or hospital accused of malpractice would. Did you read this article in Politico about a white man whose son was shot and killed by police?
    There ought to be an outside investigation when these things happen, and I mean really outside, not the county PD “investigating” the city PD.

    Meanwhile, the first casualty of the Guns Everywhere law is a tourist in Helen. The man who shot her was charged with involuntary manslaughter, which means he will probably get a fine and perhaps community service.

    Because I’ve been talking to con friends who think both cases have been handled correctly, I’m unreasonably holding cons responsible for both. One con friend, representing the NRA side of things, was telling me the founding fathers intended the citizenry to be armed equivalently with the government, and since the government has assault rifles, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, etc., there can be no restrictions at all on what can be sold to and carried by the general public. Another con friend, defending the militarization of police, tells me the police constantly have to be upgrading their capabilities in order to be sure they have better weapons than.the bad guys. I’ve decided all men are crazy.


    • You can be yourself here, even if you lose your cool for a moment. I’m understanding about these things. I’ve wanted to write more about this subject, but I don’t want my blog to be seen as just a Black man’s blog because there’s more to me than my melanin content.

      I’ve had to temper my thoughts as I write because I have to be cognizant of potential damage to my employment. Ironically, there’s a sizable group of my coworkers that find fault with the events that led to the death of Michael Brown. There’s no difference between White, Black, or Hispanic.

      One thing to consider is that the police wouldn’t need high powered weaponry if there wasn’t the likelihood they would face people armed with the same weapons. Prior to the North Hollywood shootout, everyday patrolmen didn’t carry AR-15 rifles in their squad cars. Those rifles were SWAT related guns.


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