Girl Talk: On Police Brutality & Experiencing Blackness Through My Boyfriend’s Eyes

Girl Talk: On Police Brutality & Experiencing Blackness Through My Boyfriend’s Eyes

By Tiffanie Drayton | Originally Published at The Frisky. September 22, 2014 12:43 PM EDT

I think I may have had a small mental break down last week. I knew it was coming, I was all tight with emotion after some of the responses I received on an open letter I wrote to some New York school teachers who wore NYPD shirts to school on the first day of class– in a largely minority school. When I skimmed through the comments section, I noted an almost sheer disregard for the humanity of the men I referred to in the piece who were murdered by police in the streets. Men like Eric Garner, Michael Brown and John Crawford, whose unfair deaths justify the movement against police brutality. A movement intended to end discriminatory judicial practices. One that most certainly should not be opposed by teachers of minority students.

To many White readers, the issue was simple: the NYPD deserved support from teachers, even if they mess up a couple of times. After all, not “all cops are bad” and most of these guys were doing something wrong anyway.

In a conversation about my piece on Twitter, one woman argued that John Crawford deserved to die, because he was carrying a gun at the Beavercreek, Ohio, Walmart store where he was shot multiple times by police. Despite all of the witness accounts that have said the young man was carrying a toy pellet gun (sold at the store) and on the cellphone with his girlfriend at the time of the shooting, Crawford deserved to die. Despite the fact that the 911 caller who said Crawford was brandishing the weapon recanted his story, Crawford deserved to die. In her mind, he was Black and obviously doing something dangerous, so the cops had to respond. He was a victim of his own thuggery, his girlfriend, who will forever be emotionally crippled after listening to her lover die, unable to help him, was just collateral damage.

At some point, I could not subject myself any longer to the insensitivity of such opinions. I went to a bar and had a few drinks, trying to relax and process all of the emotions that were heavy on my chest like a two-ton pile of bricks.

Afterwards, I came home to my boyfriend. I fell in love with him about a year ago, before we even met in person. He wrote a comment on an article that I wrote and his words were so powerful and unique that I knew he was the one. And when I saw him for the first time, his caramel skin and pink lips were perfection to me — they still are. Everyone thought I was crazy for falling in love so quickly.

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He probably thought I was too, when I got home that night and collapsed next to him sobbing uncontrollably.

“I don’t want you to die,” I said through gasps of air.

“Baby, I’m not going anywhere, I’m right here,” he said, holding me tight. But I was absolutely inconsolable. I curled up in a fetal position as he held me and told him about the comments, the woman on Twitter and John Crawford.

“Baby, that could’ve been you,” I said. He knew I was right.

Just two weeks earlier, we were in Ohio, his home state, visiting his family for the first time. We made several trips to Walmart while we were there. I noticed, immediately, a difference in his personality in that environment. Usually, loud, funny and playful, back at “home” my boyfriend was like a turtle that retreated back into its shell for safety. He had long told me about what it felt like growing up, as he did, surrounded by “the White gaze” with few other Black faces around — in an environment similar to where John Crawford lost his life. As a young Black woman who lived in mostly diverse neighborhoods, even I was insensitive to his feelings. But finally having the experience of visiting where he grew up made everything clear. The fear and misunderstanding which constantly followed him because he was Black in mostly White spaces, had become so palpable and real.

With every sideways glance from a White person if I laughed or spoke too loud, he became tense and uneasy.

“Why are you being so uptight,” I playfully asked.

“When you know what they think and how they feel, then you know you should be uncomfortable,” he said plainly.

He was referring to the life-long interactions with White classmates and peers who openly made it clear that Black people are inferior to Whites, animalistic even.

“Do Black people have tails?”

“Will Black penis taint White vagina?”

“Why are Black people ghetto?”

These were some of the questions White children would ask him in an attempt to conclude whether or not the teachings of Black inferiority they received from their parents and society were right.

“My father would never let me date a nigger.”

“If I didn’t know you, I’d be afraid of you because you are Black.”

“Black people are lazy.”

These were some of the conclusions already reached.

When you understand just how clearly the lines are drawn, the divisions created between the races in most of America, then you begin to understand police brutality as merely a symptom of an entire system plagued by racism. It is not merely an issue of “bad cop” versus “good cop,” it is a battle against an entire country steeped in racial, prejudiced attitudes. Attitudes reflected in the populous, the news, entertainment and even the school system. Attitudes reinforced by stereotypes and enabled by insensitivity and ignorance.

Like John Crawford, Eric Garner and Mike Brown, my boyfriend is a Black man. He is tall, brown and refers to any temperature below 75 degrees as “hoodie weather.” He has probably made a few bad choices in the past. Maybe he has even stolen a candy bar or tried weed. Many find his Blackness intimidating or unsettling, but he is the man I love. And he does not deserve to die.

More By Tiffanie Drayton >>>
Tiffanie Drayton is a freelance writer and graduate of The New School University. She hopes to one day return to an equal and racially tolerant America.

This piece was reprinted by EmpathyEducates with the kind permission of the Author. We thank Tiffanie Drayton for her open heart, expansive mind, for caring and sharing.

Related Reads An Open Letter To The White Teachers Who Wore NYPD T-Shirts To School, Despite Being Told Not To and Goodbye to My American Dream


One Comment

  1. John Lindsay September 22, 2014 at 4:46 PM - Reply

    “To many White readers, the issue was simple: the NYPD deserved support from teachers, even if they mess up a couple of times. After all, not “all cops are bad” and most of these guys were doing something wrong anyway.”

    JL: INCREDIBLE IGNORANCE….BUT….what else could you expect from *most* White people?!
    For example, White males 15-30 commit 70% of the violence in the U.S…..but…you can’t tell it from the biased way the White-owned media reports on violence.
    Police officers have 4 times the rate of domestic violence than the general public….but….you can’t tell it because domestic violence is a HIDDEN CRIME….and frequently NOT included in public discussions about violence.

    White-on-white crime in the U.S…..whether blue- collar or white-collar…is the most pervasive in the U.S.
    “….a country shocked by Ray Rice’s actions ought to be even more horrified by the most egregious examples of domestic abuse among police officers. Their stories end in death.

    There’s the recently retired 30-year veteran police officer who shot his wife and then himself in Colorado Springs earlier this summer.
    There’s Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, who perpetrated another murder-suicide in April. (Update: it’s in fact the tenth anniversary of this crime, which I missed in the ABC story.)
    Also in April, an Indiana news station reported on “Sgt. Ryan Anders, a narcotics officer,” who “broke into his ex-wife’s home and fatally shot her. He then turned the gun on himself.”
    In February, “Dallas police confirmed … that a Crandall police officer shot and killed his wife before killing himself.”
    Last year, a Nevada police officer killed his wife, his son, and then himself.
    And Joshua Boren, a Utah police officer, “killed his wife, their two children, his mother-in-law and then himself” after receiving “text messages … hours earlier threatening to leave him and take their kids and confronting him for raping her.”
    That isn’t an exhaustive survey, just a quick roundup of recent stories gleaned from the first couple pages of Google results. And statistics about “blue” domestic abuse are shocking in their own way.”

    All these crimes…and much, much more add up to way, way more than a “couple of times.”

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