When the details of Trayvon Martin’s death became public, everyone from fed-up moms to A-list celebs expressed outrage over the senseless death of a black kid at the hands of a wannabe cop. It seemed like the whole world knew about Trayvon.
But what most people don’t know is that every 28 hours, a black person is killed by a member of law enforcement, according to a report from anti-racist activist group The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, including 136 unarmed victims in 2012 alone. Eric Garner, a 43-year-old New York man who died after being put in a police chokehold in July, and Mike Brown, the 18-year-old Ferguson, Mo., man who was shot and killed by police Saturday, are the latest victims to grab headlines and remind us that racism in America is far from over.
Let me make this clear: I am not anti-cops. I am anti-brutality. I’ve witnessed my dad fighting off a dozen officers as they punched and clubbed him, but I’ve also experienced a cop going out of his way to teach me to protect myself when I had a stalker.
However, it’s important to remember that the police are paid with our collective tax dollars, and we all have a right to hold them accountable for their actions. Police brutality isn’t just a black problem. It’s a humanitarian problem. It’s an American problem. It’s your problem.
There definitely were white folks marching on Washington during the civil rights era. There were plenty of men who stood beside women to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. And there absolutely are straight people fighting for equal rights for gay folks today. Without supporting one other, where would society be? I’ve said it before: Oppression for one group of people is oppression for us all.
I know I’m gonna catch hell for this, but I especially expect the folks who have been enjoying the well-documented appropriation of African-American culture to be able to empathize. And when I stated that on Instagram, some dude with a Flanders mustache went on a rant about how white people have done plenty for blacks, because if white people hadn’t stepped in and saved hip-hop, rap never would have made it out of the Bronx.
That’s the problem right there: Culture appropriators see no difference between African-American culture and hip-hop. I happen to think the best thing about this era we’re living in is that the whole world is open to everybody. When I like art or music or food from another culture, I indulge myself in the fanciest way possible—with my pinkie up and everything.
However, when you reduce an entire people to small aspects of their culture, it makes it really easy to separate yourself and see them as less than human. It ain’t cool, bruh. So for those non-blacks who love African-American culture so much that you and the homies feel comfy calling each other the N-bomb, I’m calling you out. Stand up against police brutality or go find someone else to emulate. I hear the Slovenian-American-style polka community is quite trill. Go appropriate them.
Most white folks I know are tired of people assuming they’re racist and unaware of what’s going on in the world just because they are white. I understand that. Us ethnic folks are tired of fearing the police just because we’re not white. If we can meet in the middle and stand up for each other, maybe someday none of us will have to be tired.
RedEye special contributor Nikki Lynette, a Chicago native, is an indie recording artist whose music appears on MTV, VH1, Showtime and more.