Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Poor Lil' Tink-Tink: Being or Looking 'Black' in America

Flying anywhere in the months following 9/11 were to say the least, interesting. I am a 6’3” Indian male. And not the casino Indians, from India Indians. I grew up in the South, I have a Southern drawl, and I drink sweet tea. It all makes sense as far as I’m concerned. But, I got to experience the wonder that was the newly post-9/11 airport security on a December day in North Carolina. I was chosen for three “random” security checks. They eventually put me in a room and went through all my stuff before they were satisfied enough to put me on my flight. Through it all, I was never outraged. Everything the security people were doing is what I would do if I was the government. I’d check the close-enough-to-arab-to-make-me-look-twice looking guy a million times over before I put him on a plane full of innocent, god fearing American citizens. I did however, feel a sense of familiarity, which bothered me. Policy and cultural ideologies seemed to resonate with images from a violent and oppressive past.

Fast forward 11 years, and now I have a wife, twins babies (a boy and girl), a house, a minivan, and a stable job. My wife is Black, which means I have two mixed little babies-- half Black/half Indian. I can see both sides of their genealogical heritage in their eyes, and faces, and even in their little toes. It is truly a wonderful thing to witness. My babies themselves make everything in the world seem brand new. But through all the brand new-ness, I have never been able to shake that sensation of familiarity.

I feel that when my kids get old enough, there will be no Indian in them when perceived by the public. They are half black, and no one will care about the half-indian. When the police roll up, my son and daughter will be regular old Black folk. When they apply for college, they will be normal African-Americans.
There is one very specific time in American life today that definitely is worse for the black guy. It’s when a representative of an armed authoritative force tries to exert said authority, for example, the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. I’m going to assume that everybody knows about this kid, because everyone reading this blog on their ipads knows how to use google. Trayvon was shot by George Zimmerman, the “captain” of a citizen’s watch organization. Zimmerman claims that Trayvon attacked him; therefore Zimmerman used his legally concealed gun and put two unauthorized holes in Trayvon’s chest. It turns out that Trayvon was armed with a bag of skittles and can of thirst quenching southern iced tea. Trayvon was in high school, Zimmerman is a grown man.

Zimmerman has yet to be charged with a crime. Meaning, the police department in Sanford, Florida feels that Zimmerman was well within his legal rights to use deadly force. The Chief of Police feels that race is not an issue in this case because the police do good police work. The police, from what I can tell, have reconstructed the night: 1) Trayvon was walking through the rain in the gated community, 2) Zimmerman saw him and called 911, 3) Zimmerman confronted Trayvon, 4) an altercation ensued, 5) Zimmerman feared for his life, and 6), pulled out his gun and shot the boy dead. If that ain’t self-defense, I don’t know what is.

Trayvon could be my son or daughter. I don’t believe that Mr. Zimmerman would see my children as half-Indian, but only black, and therefore suspicious. My little Amir and Leela could be, in some 15 years, lying in the grass, rain falling on their frozen faces, and a spreading blossom of blood mingling with the dirt. I can’t even imagine what my wife’s face will look like. I imagine that I would be mighty close to committing a cold blooded murder. And that is a feeling that I don’t want to be familiar with.

America has always been unjust with black folk. I know that we live in an era that is supposedly “post-racial,” but I can’t seem to shake that abhorrent sense of familiarity. I don’t want to feel such vulgarity so intimately. More so, I don’t want my kids to know it. But I’ve never been able to find my way out of the labyrinth. I don’t think my Dad, with all his infinite wisdom, has ever found his way out, only a means to survive within. I don’t believe that Amir and Leela will ever find the exit. I should have named them Daedalus and Icarus apparently. Trayvon’s family must wear the scars of Mr. Zimmerman’s actions as a representative of an armed authoritative force. The law is written to favor the actions of Mr. Zimmerman. And once again, it doesn’t work out for the Black guy, and that sounds real familiar.
Anjan Basu

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