nypd police brutality

"But officer, I never litter AND I went to college!"

Why are Black people expected to play the role of both patient and doctor when dealing with the disease of racism?

No matter the players or the circumstances, if a story rooted in racism and injustice reaches the national level, you can count on someone to say the following: “What about Black-on-Black crime?” It’s as disingenuous a retort as it is clueless and often comes from someone who clings to conservative ideology, particularly the notion of “personal responsibility.” Yet, it’s also a line of thinking found in many Black folks who have political ideologies, but nonetheless share this idea that the Black community needs to look within itself for answers whenever one of our own falls victim to systematic racism.

Sure, self-reflection is important, but it should never supersede a complete assessment of a particular grievance. To survey a multifaceted problem with a linear line of thinking is senseless as it is pointless. Like buying a case of Icy Hot to cure a migraine. To truly fix something, or at least, make it more manageable, it requires you look at everything. It also requires a certain of level focus. Say, on the person who shot someone in cold blood and left him in the street for several hours in his own blood as opposed to members of the community rightfully salty over it.

As much as I respect Al Sharpton as an orator, community organizer, and political activist, I was troubled to see him turn Michael Brown’s funeral into a rally for his viewpoints about Black youth. The MSNBC host said during his remarks, “Now you wanna be a nigga and call your woman a ho, you lost where you come from. We've got to clean up our community so we can clean up the United States of America!”

On a Ferguson-themed episode of Iyanla, Fix My Life, Iyanla Vanzant echoed this sentiment on camera with the claim, "But if we’re not respecting ourselves, we’re teaching them how to treat us."

Oh, beloveds, you spew crocks that will never earn credence no matter the level of repetition.

This country made our mess, so why are we the only ones expected to be on clean-up duty? Why is that burden placed on us? Sharpton is free to dislike the use of “nigga,” but as far as the end of that somehow preventing a police officer more qualified to be a Grand Wizard from killing some unarmed Black man, woman, or child: Negro, please.

Last time I checked, President Obama is always in suits and belted mom and dad jeans yet he still gets routinely disrespected. As do you Rev. Sharpton. You have been vilified in a tracksuit on the same scale you have been in a suit. Ditto for Don Lemon, who found himself manhandled by a Ferguson police officer on camera, despite wearing his paints to his waist.

No matter what Black people call themselves, a racist gon’ be a racist.

Then there is the self-loathing line of commentary from the likes of people like rapper Nelly, who was recently quoting saying: “Every other race I know play chess. Black people play checkers.” Turn off his mic. In fact, throw his mic in the trashcan and then set that trashcan on fire.

Others include James Clark, the head of Better Family Lives, who claimed in an interview: “No one treats African-Americans worse than we treat each other. We were outraged when George Zimmerman killed a black boy, but Zimmerman was taught by watching black people kill Black people. He learned it from us. We planted the seed.” 

In real life, White people kill other white people at virtually the same rate as Black people murder other Black people. After all, three quarters of White people don’t have non-White friends. By the way, George Zimmerman’s kin don’t speak too kindly of our kind, Mr. Clarke. Don’t put Zimmerman’s issues on our backs. He’s done enough to Black people as is.

As far as our own bad behavior goes, poor Black folks do not wake up and simply decide to give up on life and subsequently misbehave. Nihilism is not inherent; it is beaten into the psyche of those to which it afflicts. Do we need to work on ourselves? Yes, but while Michael Brown may have committed a petty crime before it took his life, the same goes for many teens. The problem is a white kid can get away with it, maybe even go on to be president. A Black person isn’t as lucky.

Respectability politics is asking Black folks to clean up their homes; white supremacy is about burning it down no matter how our home looks. If you want to help your people, by all means…help. Just don’t think you’re of that great of use if you think the solution is solely acting out the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror.”

Michael Arceneaux is the author of the “The Weekly Read,” where tough love is served with just a touch of shade. Tweet him at @youngsinick.