Tired of Waiting: An Artist’s Duty in 2016

September 28, 2016









Your Take: Artists need not only to make art but also to raise their voices when it comes to activism. 


“We who feel lava in our eyes and hearts find it hard not to shake or scream.” —The Transformations Suite


“I can only speak about my own country, because I know this country; I think I know it pretty well. In this country now—and I have to preface everything I’m going to say with this—all terms must be revised.” —James Baldwin


What does patriotism mean in a country that is built on plunder?


What does the law mean when it gives police license to kill the citizens who pay for their salaries?


What does a national awakening of consciousness mean when it requires us to watch videos of people being murdered, over and over again?


I couldn’t watch the Terence Crutcher video. I couldn’t watch it. As important as it is for people who insist on ignoring the problem of police brutality to see the video, I think the cost might be too great for those of us who see our fathers in those images.


I don’t know what to say to my father after he stops our conversation one day while we’re in the car because a police car is driving behind us, and we sit in a heavy silence until the cops turn off the road. I don’t know how to deal with the fact that even as an important academic and community leader, my dad could be Keith Lamont Scott tomorrow, reading a book while waiting to pick me up at the airport or my concert or my friend’s house. I don’t know how to reconcile the fact that my father is the kindest and most compassionate man I know, and yet he could be the next black man surveilled from a helicopter with the judgment that “he looks like a bad dude.” I don’t know how to hold this rage inside me.


All I know is, it hurts. So bad. Worse than almost anything else. Worse than two months ago, when I couldn’t stop thinking about Alton Sterling. Worse than five months ago, when I saw the brave hunger strikers’ protest of the San Francisco Police Department’s killing of Alex Nieto get sidelined by the mayor in the most inhumane way. Because every time is the worst time.


The history of policing in this country is a history of decimating and controlling black and brown bodies. You can trace the development of this country’s police force through the state’s need for quelling black uprisings. The earliest police in American history were used as slave catchers, returning to slavery many men and women who were courageous and lucky enough to embark on and survive the journey from South to North. SWAT was originally created to infiltrate and take out the Black Panthers network. And the day that I saw footage of tanks in Ferguson, Mo., streets was the day I really started to understand what we are up against, now, in our time.


And this is, fundamentally, the reason we can’t wait: Every day is urgent because every day—literally, every 28 hours—another person is killed by police. And as this happens, the state is coming up with more and more ways to cover up these murders with excuses, lies and language.


When I say that the time is most urgently now, I don’t mean reform. I don’t mean asking kindly. To all those hiding behind ideas like “We support your right to protest, but be polite” (shoutouts to all the Colin Kaepernick haters—I see through y’all; I see your cowardice) or “Change will come, but it goes slow; be patient, don’t disrupt things!”

We don’t have the privilege of “patience.” We are dying. We are being murdered, and then blamed for our own deaths. And we are being thrown in cages for engaging in the same practices that you could find tomorrow in any college dorm in the nation. Business “as usual” is done in this country, and it’s not coming back. Best believe we are going to fight harder and stronger.

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