The tragic death of 18-year old Mike Brown has exposed the many aspects of racism on a larger scale than most are used to. His murderer, Officer Darren Wilson, remains on paid leave and has not been arrested. Ferguson police officers are still denying the heartbroken people of their city the right to protest without facing harassment. Worst of all, just a couple of days after the teenager was shot numerous times and left to bleed out in the middle of the street, the media has denied his family the right to mourn, disrespecting him posthumously by describing him as a thug, a criminal whose death was deserved.
However, the saddest aspect of the situation in Ferguson is that it is familiar to black people as a whole. Instead of understanding that we all make mistakes, society has decided early on that our missteps, whatever they may be, are unforgivable. It’s almost as if the world is waiting for us to do something wrong so it has an excuse to dehumanize and ostracize us. Regardless of social status, as long as you’re black, you will be always be scrutinized and judged more harshly than others around you. In the case of Mike Brown, it was the fact that he stole cigarillos, smoked weed, and recorded rap music. And in the case of Kanye West, it was the fact that he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2008 VMAs.
This is not to say that Kanye West has never done anything wrong aside from this incident. He is known for being outspoken and doing whatever the hell he wants regardless of the repercussions, but there are still numerous people whose hate for him is derived from the fact that he drunkenly disrupted Swift’s speech to state that he thought Beyoncé’s record deserved to win that award. This was six years ago, and shortly after, West took full responsibility for his actions and apologized. So why are people still so mad about it? They are mad because West is a black man who has reached an incredible level of success, an achievement that makes some people uncomfortable. He doesn’t fit the stereotype that black men are unintelligent, lazy criminals who don’t provide for their families. West is in fact the very opposite: a millionaire rapper married to an A-list celebrity who just happens to be the biggest rock star in the world. The fact that he is so famous and influential on top of his blackness makes people restless, so his poor decision onstage with Taylor Swift was all the reason they needed to decide that he is worthless, undeserving of our sympathy, and should be excommunicated.
Kanye West has done several things that he should’ve been wiser about, just as Mike Brown should’ve thought better of stealing those cigarillos (items that the officer who killed him had no knowledge of to begin with). However, criminalizing them for their poor decisions is evidence that we do not live in a post-racial society. Slavery may be over, we are no longer lynched, and schools are now integrated, but these changes do not add up to the end of racism. Now it’s simply implicit. People will find whatever loopholes they can to assure that black people get the short end of the stick. It’s obvious that there is a double standard, because when an unarmed black teen is murdered in the street, the media quickly digs up anything that portrays him in a negative light, making it appear as if he deserved to die. Yet, when pedophiles, rapists, and serial killers, such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy, are discussed, the commentary is mainly focused on how nobody expected such disgusting behavior from them, most people previously considering them as sweet but troubled young (white) men.
Blackness is seen as a crime, from getting fired from jobs for wearing our natural hair, to being demonized for doing something out of line on television, to having our murder justified for because we stole Swisher Sweets from a convenience store. These injustices indicate that politics, fame, and even a black president don’t mean much in terms of how our white society perceives us. Status has nothing to do with how we are treated, as many would like to believe. You will never be able to escape blackness no matter how much money you make or how well you dress. You could go from living in the worst part of Chicago to owning a mansion in Beverly Hills, and it doesn’t matter. In the eyes of society, you’re automatically a nuisance merely because of the color of your skin.