end up in the Black but not off Latin decent pile with lots of others. I am 100% Jamaican. My race doesn’t matter much to me, or at least it hadn’t when I was growing up. However, since I’ve been in America, it’s been a blaring constant in my life.
decline. They had eaten away at what little self-worth this middle child of absentee parents could muster. They made it clear that I wasn’t one of them, but my culture was so different that it was fine that I was other.
But America was a strange place to me, until it wasn’t. I quickly realized that everyone had to be in a box, so my feeling of being other would be tested time and time again. I was never fooled into thinking that I am not Black, no matter what anyone said, but culturally I will never be 100% American. At this point, I can’t even say that I am 100% Jamaica either. All I can do is deal with the reality that I am some type of hybrid of each.
All this has come into question as I watch the Michael Brown demonstrations and riots going on in Ferguson, a little town in Saint Louis that I had no idea existed until it erupted in violence two weeks ago. A young man was shot and killed while walking down the street. He was unarmed, but fit the
description of a person who had stolen a carton of cigarettes from a convenience store. The officials were trying their best to paint him with the ever so familiar brush of thug. This iswhat is supposed to make it okay that he was shot and killed, while unarmed with his hands in the air.
What is coming into focus for me, an immigrant, is ethnic identity. If I do not culturally identify with those around me who are of the same ethnicity, does that mean that I am still other? How does America see me while I’m driving down the street? What about when I speak? Or when I say, “I’m Jamaica?” I never say that I’m Black, I believe that my color is evident to anyone with sight.
But does it matter that I am from another country? African Americans still treat me differently. They say I speak funny, or wonder about some of the references that I find familiar. At a time like this, I believe that none of those thing matter. As long as I am Black, of African decent, I am still a part of the minority community in this country that is being harassed, ignored, and discriminated against. It isn’t the values that I hold dear or the education that I have acquired, but the color of my skin that
matters. Do I think that Michael was an angel walking down the street? Probably not, but I still don’t think that he should have been killed like a dog in the street. And I don’t think that cigarettes are a
reason to kill anyone.
I am equally upset about the young Latino man, Jorge Azucena, who died in police custody after repeatedly complaining of being unable to breathe. He was carried into the station and laid on his belly where he later died. 40 minutes past before an ambulance arrived. All this was after being dragged into the station with his feet dangling. “Authorities say Azucena, 26, was arrested last September after he ran a red light and was briefly chased by officers.” CBS.com
There is something so familiar about not having a voice that is respected and revered that I can completely identify with. It angers me that one human was ignored; his cried for help dissolving into nothing simply because he had a checkered past.
Whether I like it or not, some people look at me and see poverty, lack of education, and maybe even mischief. They don’t see beyond the color, and so sometimes I find myself clinging to those who look like me because I am grouped with them anyway. But while I see what happened to Michael and the
others over the years as a little bite closer to home, I never forget that as a human, we all look alike. We all hurt in the same ways. We all want the same for our families.
I am not unique in my desires to see my family strive. I have a young, Black nephew that I worry about as he grows older. I wonder if people well only see the stereotypes of the angry thug, or will they see how much care and love we’ve tried to instill in him? If I have children, they will be American, and Black, and so I have to see Michael as I see myself. I have to give him the same consideration that I would like for others to give me.
I have to look past his youth, maybe the way he is dress, and I have to see his humanity. I have to. If I don’t, I am no better than the man who shot him repeated while he was unarmed. And I have to be angry about Jorge Azucena as well. I have to see his humanity, and wonder how his family will move past this.
There is nothing unique about me. Nothing sets me apart from these two men. They might not have the education that I have, but like I said before, no one can readily see that as I walk or drive down the
street. All they see is color. This alone sometimes stripes me of my humanity… making it easier to discriminate against me, or gun me down in the streets. It’s a similar plight to the one I have to deal with as a woman. Just being one makes me more of a target for rape, physical assault, or other forms of discrimination.
With all these stereotypes, and misconceptions of me as a Black person swirling around my head each day, I have to understand the road on which Michael Brown was walking on. It’s similar enough to mine that I have to identify with him and those hundred of people marching the streets of Ferguson each night
demanding justice. But it shouldn’t just be my color that forces me to identify with him; it should also be my humanity. As a human, the poverty and potential violent behavior of other’s shouldn’t matter. In that moment, if they are relenting, if they are conforming to what an authority figure is demanding, then they should be treated with the same respect and given the same rights as any deserving soul just trying to make their way through life
So am I Black? The answer is yes. Am I African American? That answer is more complicated. I am somewhat African American, but I am mostly Jamaican. How do I feel about Michael Brown, the
so called thug? He should still have been treated like any other citizen of America and should not have been gunned down in the streets. My culture will have to be put aside, and all I should see is that I am human, and so was he.