I was watching the documentary, “The Color of Fear” the other day and when I woke this morning, I was hearing Victor Lewis’ voice saying, “You are standing on Red ground.” So it did not feel like a coincidence when I got to my desk today and read a NYT article, “Quietly, Indians Reshape Cities and Reservations” and stopped on this statement:
One effect of the move toward cities has been a proliferation of Native American street gangs, which mimic and sometimes form partnerships with better-established African-American and Latino gangs, according to the F.B.I. and local law enforcement reports.
It did not at all feel like a coincidence that last night, I had gone to bed thinking of the problem with New Orleans and daily deaths of young Black men. Angela Davis said that we can’t think of any of these issues separately, that unemployment, heterosexism, wars and prison is the challenge of the 21st century – to figure out how all of these things connect.
Tim Wise suggests that this country has suffered an empathic collapse because we no longer think we are connected to black men in prison, to those who struggle on Indian reservations, to those dying in wars and to young black men dying on the streets of New Orleans. Welcome to the White Jungle.
When I read someone’s Facebook post saying he doesn’t care about thugs killing thugs in response to the killing of Joseph Massenburg all I could think of in my mind was Tupac Shakur saying: I didn’t create Thug Life, I just diagnosed it. The Urban Dictionary defines thug life as:
Thug Life: A word Evolved by the late Tupac Shakur. Commonly mistaken for a Criminal. Thug Life is the opposite of someone having all he needs to succeed. Thug life is when you have nothing, and succeed, when you have overcome all obstacles to reach your aim.
“When my heart beats, it screams THUG LIFE.”
Shakur defined it as an acronym: “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.”
But Shakur’s dead now, although he did not die anonymously as our young Black men die here in the White Jungle of New Orleans, he died from the same cause – let’s use Tim Wise’s word empathic collapse rather than the word everyone wants to avoid: racism.
I read the article about Indians leaving the reservation for opportunities in the city only to find trading rural problems for urban ones is a step up, a step up in the collapse of empathy from which this country profits.
My Turkish friend told my son when we had to sell our house and move into a three-room apartment that we should stand on the ground barefoot in the back yard so we could connect with this place. Young Black men are spilling their blood into the ground of the White Jungle so they too can connect with this place. White feet standing on Black blood standing on Red ground.