Essays — December 13, 2014 23:09 — 1 Comment

What Are We Marching For? Some Thoughts – Ijeoma Oluo

I do not believe most cops are racist. I do not believe they wake up and say, “I’m going to kill a brown person today.”

I believe they are trained to think that black people are dangerous. I believe they are indoctrinated with fear.

I believe they are working under orders to make white citizenry more comfortable, to make them feel more secure.

I believe these cops have been told that they are at war with us. That we are out to destroy them.

I believe this is a direct reflection of how America sees us, as enemy combatants.

If the American people wanted indictments, they would happen. If they wanted to end police brutality, it would happen.

When white people rail against “racist cops” they forget how they cross the street when they encounter a black man at night.

When white people rail against an unjust system they forget how they voted against affirmative action.

When white people say “how could this be?” they forget how they avoid “bad neighborhoods except when they are “slumming” for fun.

People march to end police brutality, but not for access to head start programs, affordable housing, job training.

People cry about the sad plight of young brown kids while they defund childcare programs.

People don’t want to see black people die on their screen, but they’ll willfully look past us dying from substandard health care.

People will say “how could that cop shoot that boy?” but nothing about our rising infant mortality rate.

Allies will march and then go out to a congratulatory dinner while black people go back to food deserts.

White people will say, “that could have been my son” while brown children are being handcuffed in their son’s school.

“This must end! This must stop!” But only this. Only the simple matter of a cop with a gun.

If all we had to worry about was a cop with a gun we’d be doing pretty damn good.

How about anguished guilty tears over the millions of black men jailed over minor offenses?

How about outrage over school funding systems that guarantee that poor children stay poor?

The white flight that has ghettoized black communities is now being ignored like this is some organic evolution of black culture. Some unsolvable problem.

While the ally standing next to you at that rally is the same person who’s priced you out of your “gentrifying” neighborhood.

This society is killing us, each and every day. Cops are just hired guns.

Let’s not just indict cops. Let’s indict our education system. Indict our businesses. Indict our media. Indict our healthcare system.

Instead of just caring about black deaths, let’s start caring about black lives.


Ijeoma Oluo is a Seattle writer, thinker, talker and mother. She cares deeply about discourse.

One Comment

  1. Ijoma,

    You have connected the dots here. I will post and post and post!
    I am often questioned about why so few black people are marching? My standard answer (from my light skinned, born and raised in Oakland husband) because we have been hearing this, living this our whole lives. This is not news, it’s just more of the same hate we have grown up with.
    He’s often asked (by white women) where he’s from and what nationality is he? He tell’s them I’m just a black man from Oakland. The immediate response is a horrified, “Oh your not Black!” They don’t have any idea how raise that is! How to let them know?
    In awe of you brilliance!

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

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