When I was a child, I learned many wonderful lessons I still use today. My grandparents taught me the true meaning of faith and how important it is to be kind to others. I discovered I could write in middle school from my special education teacher, whose actual job was to teach me to read at a proficient level. I learned from a high school teacher that it would be cool for an African-American kid from the inner-city to learn German. Pretty important, since I'm now in Germany for the second time in my life.
From my mom, there were many lessons I learned, including those of working hard and fighting for what I need, especially when times are difficult. Oh, and there was another very, very important thing she taught me: how to get stopped by the police. As strange as it might sound to some, there is actually a technique to this:
Stop. Don't make any sudden movements. Move very slowly. Then, tell the officer, "My hands are in the air. Tell me what you want me to do."
Of course, this technique can vary based on whether you're walking or driving, but I think you get the idea. You're taking control of the situation. It's your job to make sure the officer understands you're not going for a weapon and that he's to tell you exactly what he needs from you. That way, there aren't any mistakes. I learned early that a sworn police officer had the power and authority to hold me until he was satisfied I was no longer a "threat". If I did as I was taught, I'd get home alive. If I didn't, I probably wouldn't. It was just that simple.
However, with the Zimmerman verdict, things have changed for mothers like mine. If she were raising a son today in the state of Florida, she'd have to teach her son that another entity has authority and control over the life of her child: an ordinary citizen consumed with fear and armed with a loaded weapon.
Think of it, her son could be stopped on the street by a fearful civilian. He'd either have to subordinate himself to the citizen's on-the-spot interrogation or risk an altercation, which could end with a bullet in his chest.
As I watched the commentary and analysis of the court decision, a story is mixed in regarding the National Security Agency scandal and Edward J. Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs. It was the wrong time, because it made me verbally articulate what I'd been thinking for some time.
"I really don't give a sh!t about Snowden or the NSA?"
Listen, I enjoy my privacy as much as the next guy, but there are certain rights I gave up the moment the Lord sent me to earth in this beautiful, black skin. For the most part, those who are most strenuously protesting their civil liberties being trampled upon by the NSA will never be subjected to the experiences I've had to deal with. They complain because they expect their constitutional rights to be paid in full. But if you're someone like me, yours are usually stamped with a great, big NSF -- Not So Fast!
White people -- yes, that's the group to which I'm referring -- expect certain treatment, yet African-Americans, Latinos, and other minorities have to struggle for ours. And that struggle continues even after 237 years since the founding of this country.
If you're white, you assume you're born with inalienable rights, as defined by the United States Constitution. If you're African-American, Latino, or another minority, you know your rights are alienated at the whim of anyone who has fear of you. And when it's backed up by the law, as was the Zimmerman acquittal, why would I care if the government knows whom you're calling? Do you care about my civil liberties? A police officer will know exactly what's in my pockets when he pins me against a cold wall or bends me over the warm hood of a car during a Stop-And-Frisk.
Please understand, I'm not faulting anyone for having white skin. I don't believe all white people are racists, because they're not. I refuse to fall into that trap. That special education teacher was white, and thankfully there have been other white people in my life who weren't racist, either. I'm grateful for that. But there is something we all need to acknowledge. If you're white, there are rights you were given when the Lord sent you to earth... and to America.
For example, you'll never have to endure the experience of being constantly surveilled -- or even questioned incessantly -- as you shop at a department store.
You won't find yourself riding an elevator alone with a woman, only to notice her hugging the wall as she clutches her purse tightly to her body. Your white skin wouldn't be particularly dangerous and scary to her.
You won't get stopped by a cop while running out of a store. A running white person is not a threat.
You won't be walking down the street with your buddy -- also white -- and get stopped at gunpoint by police officers because they were looking for two suspects of a crime, the description being "two white men, one taller than the other".
And you probably won't be walking through a suburban townhome complex at the late evening hour of seven o'clock and be seen as someone who "doesn't belong". You're white, so that would mean you must have a right to be there.
So forgive me if I don't lose any sleep over the NSA scandal or Mr. Snowden.
Of course, we can thank the state of Florida with its attempts to suppress the voting rights of minorities and its shoot-first-ask-questions-later "self-defense" laws for exposing our hypocrisy to the world. Once again, The Gunshine State has made all of us in America look like complete a-holes.
My God, you can't get anything right, not even human rights!
I've said it before and I'll say it again. If I were to give the world an enema, there's only one place I'd stick that nozzle: FLORIDA!