Monday, August 18, 2014

We Are More Than a Picture

I want to tell you about my friend, H (I am not going to use his real name here). I’ve know H since I was 9 years old. He was a year older than me. We went to school together in Germany. We’re both military brats. We rode the bus together and we teased each other about being short. This is funny because we’re both short. We had that in common. What we don’t have in common is our skin color. H is black and I am very white, shockingly caucasian as Bill Burr would say.

Recently we got to talking about the Michael Brown case over Facebook and how there is always a picture war after an unarmed black man is shot. You know the one, the pictures of the young black man where he looks like he is in a gang or a criminal to counter the pictures the same black man in a cap and gown or with his family, looking innocent and child-like, like an upstanding citizen. I asked him if he had seen the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag on Twitter. He responded with his own, a picture taken at a Halloween party.

And then I cried.

I cried because I know that I will never have to face that. H and I have know each other since the 3rd grade. We grew up together. We had the same friends. Our parents had the same job. We both grew up overseas. We come from the same background and the only reason that I will never face what he faces is because of the color of my skin.

If they gunned me down, I know what picture they would use. It would be a family picture. It would be a picture of me with my husband and my children. I’m not worried that they would use that picture of me in college drunk with my friends. I’m not worried that they would use one of the pictures of me smoking or that time I dressed up as a pimp for Halloween. I know no one would judge me for a picture or even a questionable choice when I was younger. I would be a mother and a wife and a daughter and a sister and a friend. I know that. But if my friend got gunned down? There is a good chance that to some he would be simply a thug.

That is not okay.

If you asked me to pick one picture that showed who I am I don’t know if I could.  I am all of them. I am the sum of all my experiences and all the pictures. I don’t know if I’m good or bad. I am neither, or both.  But what I do know is that I am a human and I know with certainty that I am no more human than anyone else because of the color of my skin.

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