Today, we have the reality of Black people accused of all kinds of nonsense simply for pointing their fingers. Here’s a snippet from the HuffPo piece:
High School Students Jordan And Juwaun Jackson
In early 2014, the Sheboygan Press did a feature on Jordan, Juwaun and Jamal Jackson, three African-American brothers who had recently moved to the local Wisconsin school district and played on the basketball team. The photo that accompanied the story eventually led to the suspension of Jordan and Juwaun after one police liaison officer contacted Sheboygan Falls’ liaison officer to express concern that the brothers might have been flashing gang signs. Police said that the hand sign being used by Jordan — who is on the far left — is associated with the Bloods. In fact, it’s a hand gesture used by many NBA players to note a three-point shot. Juwaun said “he was simply gesturing at himself and the camera in a playful manner.” The brothers’ suspension was eventually lifted, and the editor of the paper said he was dumbfounded at the “ugly turn” taken by the community over what was meant to be a “positive story.”
This isn’t new news, of course. Black people having the audacity to use their hands expressively is often frightening. I’ve used my own big hands in ways that have upset others. Walking in my old neighborhood a few weeks ago, I waved at a woman who used to be my upstairs neighbor. She was about a quarter of a block away from me. I waved. I waved again. When I got near enough to speak, I greeted her by name. We had never been close friends, but we spoke — beyond saying a casual “hello” in the hall — at least four times a week for several years. When I called her name, she did a curious jolt and rearranged her distressed face into one showing recognition. I said, “I guess you didn’t see me waving.” Even though she’d been looking right at me, I can imagine her being so in her thoughts that she didn’t see me. Here’s where I have to commend her honesty. Her response? “I saw you. I didn’t know how to read that hand gesture.”
Um, what? Has no one ever waved at you? How sad. How lackluster your days must be with no one approaching you with a common, possibly-universal sign of greeting. But she didn’t know how to read my hand gesture. Right. I had forgotten about that ridiculous moment until my friend Pamela sent me the link to this article this morning.
But really, none of this is new. Surely we haven’t forgotten one of the more famous “I didn’t know how to read that hand gesture” moments in recent history, E.D. Hill and the so-called “terrorist fist jab” of 2008:
But clearly, if Black people use their hands for anything other than participating in team sports
collecting welfare checks, being handcuffed … we’re trouble.
This level of knee-jerk fear may not be surprising, but it still troubles me. It’s one more step in the unceasing march of criminalizing all Black behavior. If I dance, it’s dangerous. If I show that I’m happy about something, it’s dangerous. If I vote, it’s dangerous. If I use slang, it’s dangerous. If I drive an expensive car, it’s dangerous. If I try to run a country, change healthcare law, keep an economy from dying a rapid death … it’s dangerous.
The fact is, there are few things Black people can do without scaring the crap out of people. When I write posts that fall into this category, I often wind down with some version of, “I’m tired.” I am tired. When does this get so old it dies? How do we push it over the edge and out of our national consciousness? I don’t have answers. I do have, however, a terrorist fist jab I’d love to land in the face of these foolish people:
Folks who want to tell me Hill’s comment — or any of the nonsense detailed in the HuffPo piece — isn’t about race, isn’t about FoaBP, please watch this montage first:
And the Daily Kos piece.