Thursday, July 07, 2016

Back Away From The Computer...

I did not watch "Roots."

I'm not referring to the remake of the groundbreaking miniseries, which launched this past Memorial Day weekend. I'm referring to the original. I've never seen it.

When the original "Roots" aired in January 1977, I was a part-time student at the University of Pittsburgh, living on Dithridge Street in Oakland.

I think I watched the first two episodes, maybe part of the third, before I stopped watching.

"Roots" affected a lot of people deeply, in different ways. I stopped watching because of how it affected me.

For me, "Roots" ignited rage.

"Anger" is not a strong enough word. I felt rage. The portrayal of the abuse, the cruelty, the deliberate attempts at dehumanization endured by so many enslaved Black people set my insides on fire with a desire for...what? Justice? Revenge?

A just revenge.

This wasn't the annoyance that flares up when someone cuts me off in traffic, or the anger of feeling personally mistreated, this was a rage that hungered for violence on behalf of millions.

I wanted to see some white people's blood flow.

And when I realized that I wanted to see some white people's blood flow, I also realized that I didn't care whose blood it might be. Just some white people.

In January 1977, I was deeply involved at the First Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, just a short walk from my apartment. FBC was nearly all white. The rage did not care that they were fellow Christians; it only cared that they were white.

In January 1977, I had two white roommates. The rage did not care how much I liked them; it only cared that they were white.

Out of fear of my rage, I stopped watching "Roots."

Now, I'm afraid again.

I had not fully processed the experience of watching Eric Garner die when videos of Michael Brown started showing up in my social media streams.

I had not fully processed the experience of watching Alton Sterling die when the video of Philando Castile's death appeared.

You don't know about him yet? He was pulled over for a busted tail light. The traffic stop turned into a shooting. His girlfirend, Diamond Reynolds, shot video (their 4-year-old daughter was in the back seat). Here's a snippet:


The complete video is here. When you figure out how to respond, as a human and a citizen, drop me a line (elwin15208@gmail.com). Because I'm stumped. I have no answers, only feelings.

And my feeling about my feelings drives this decision: I'm going to leave Facebook alone for a while - and perhaps even social media as a whole - even if just a few days. Because if "Roots" made me want to see white peoples' blood flow, I'm afraid the next video of an American citizen dying at the hands of police might make me lose my damn mind.

Granted, I have had nearly 30 more years' experience since "Roots" of being a civil, even-tempered man with a high regard for law and an even higher regard for humans.

But that doesn't guarantee anything ("He was always so quiet.").

Facebook, Twitter and G+ will see one more post later today, about a pair of videos that could change the conversation about police violence against citizens.
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