^This image is from my comic Your Black Friend.

Yesterday in Baton Rouge the cops killed a 37 year old black man named Alton Sterling  (the video’s very disturbing, so fair warning.) This is the one summer in a long time I decided to go up north to escape the Louisiana heat and I’m missing my friends and feeling guilty for being away from my community as they decide how to respond to another murder by police in our state.

I made my comic Your Black Friend after I overheard a white woman in a hip coffee shop tell the white barista about how she had just called the police on a black man coming out of his back yard (his own back yard it turned out.) because she felt “sketched out” by a man who’s only crime was leaving his own house in his own neighborhood. I was not sure if she was unaware that a call like her’s is all the police need to show up and start assaulting and (very often) killing black people, or if she had called for that exact reason. Optimist that I am I assumed that she called the police because she’s reflexively afraid of black people and not actively trying to kill us with police. So I got up an approached her.

“hi,” I said. “look, you can’t help but be racist that’s your burden, but I want you to know that when you call the police and tell them that there’s a scary black person around you put every single black person in this community in danger, even the nice light-skinned ones in cute coffee shops. So do me a favor, don’t call the police. Stay in your white suburb. I don’t want my friends or myself killed just because you can’t handle being around black people.” 

I know we’re supposed to be a nation of ideas and debate, but I just turned and walked the fuck out while she stared at me with her mouth open. Apparently she went up to the barista and said something like, “that guy called me a racist, can you believe it?” So obviously she missed the larger point of what I said. 

I didn’t know Alton Sterling, but watching him being attacked, pinned to the ground and shot in the chest is deeply horrible. I can’t help but see in him my father, my half-brother, my friends and myself. And his death is the result of some unnamed person calling the police and telling them that he had a gun. 

Someone might say, “maybe he mouthed off” or “maybe he pushed one of them.” And maybe that’s true, but if you knew what it was like to regularly be trying to go about your day and have the police stop you and humiliate you on a regular basis, then you’d understand why someone would lose his mind. I see white people flip their shit over parking tickets all the time and then they want us to be like Buddhist monks all the time. 

I’m not stupid, I saw the cops that shot down unarmed civilians during Katrina go free or get slaps on the wrist, not to mention more recent murders and rapes by police that have gone unpunished. I’ve lived in America too long to know that if I was shot by a cop tomorrow he’d be back to work next Tuesday. Which is not to say nothing should be done. We need to fight this. 

I want to restate what I was trying to say to the lady in the coffee shop:

The police are killing us out here and your fear of black people is making it worse. You are acting and supporting the murder of black people by both calling the police and feeding into your internalized fear and distrust of black people. Your fear is not our problem, it is yours and you need to fix yourself or stay on the wrong side of this fight. 

And it is a fight, we should be in the streets, in city halls, in police precincts, everywhere. If you have family, friends, or loved ones that are police you need to engage them, especially if they’re black . This needs to end and it will only end when we’ve torn down everything that maintains and reenforces the oppression on black people and all people.