A couple of times over the last eight years, I’ve been told I should keep my opinions to myself, I’m an entertainer not an activist. This is partially correct: I am an entertainer, an artist, and it is my job to write and sell books. I say partially; because they forget I am not an emotionless android. It is impossible to be human and not be an activist. We all have things we believe in deeply unless we are sociopaths or psychopaths, they tend to not feel anything deeply and therefore don’t advocate, become passionate, nor care much. And for me, one of the things I feel deeply about is injustice and inequality. Before you roll your eyes, you have to take a moment to understand my perspective.
I research crime all the time. From passionate murders to cold-hearted kidnappings and mysterious disappearances. I believe it is impossible to research crime as intensely as I do and fail to see that the criminal justice system in America never wore a blindfold.
This research hasn’t just exposed me to the darker side of human nature, it has exposed me to crime bias. This isn’t just a fancy theoretical term thrown out by sociologists and dissenters, it is real and brutally destructive.
I know that intentional or not; black people in America are more likely to be treated like criminals by the police, the justice system, and the public in general, even when they aren’t. I know that the murder of a person of color be they black, hispanic, Native American, or Asian, is less likely to be solved than the murder of white person.
And I feel every anguished outcry of it. When my nephews were little, they became good friends with the kids that lived across the street from my parents. The youngest of the two boys was a year older than the oldest of my nephews. They played Star Wars in my front yard, they played James Bond and Super Smash Bros. on Super Nes in my living room. When possible, they were together from the time they crawled out of bed until we made them separate for the night. After a few years, they started introducing each other as “my brother from another mother” and it wasn’t long after that my mom simply became Oma (the diminutive form of Grandmother in German) to all the kids, even the neighbor kids and I became just aunt. Those two boys were black. And once they adopted us as family, we adopted them. I introduce one of them as my nephew when we are together and introductions are necessary. Just like he introduces me as his aunt. Only on rare occasions do we explain why I am very white and he isn’t. And I couldn’t love him more even if we were blood.
The kids are all grown now and having babies of their own. And my black nephew is the polietest 20 something you’ll ever meet. I worry about him way more than I do my mouthy, disrespectful white nephews. Because I know when he gets pulled over for speeding or failing to use his blinker, what the police see is an athletic 20 something black male breaking the law. And according to crime bias he is more likely to be a thug than the hardworking, polite, kind man that he is. It takes more than 30 to 60 seconds to see that in a person and let’s face it, none of us like getting speeding tickets, which makes it horribly improbable that the police officer will have a chance to see the man I know.
These days, when I hear someone was resisting arrest I don’t take it as gospel truth. Because I know in the course of my life, I’ve had a few incidents that could have gone badly. I mentioned once in a blog post that I was pulled over by the Missouri Highway Patrol and had my car searched; the patrolman was an absolute dick about it. As a 20-something white girl anxious to get home and change her clothes after a long day of college classes, I could have been more friendly and understanding, but in that moment, I was incredibly pissed off at the invasion of my privacy. I don’t have a criminal record beyond a speeding ticket and a parking ticket or two… and he’d mentioned the K9 unit when he asked to search my car, so I wasn’t getting out of the car search. So I consented, but I wasn’t nice or pleasant about it. Looking back, I wonder if I could have been arrested for being uncooperative and combative; I know I was both. But that is a luxury I have. It is not a luxury my nephew has. If an officer wants to search his car, he’d better say “yes, sir, absolutely.” Because if he doesn’t he is escalating an already tense situation… That’s how crime bias works. I as a white girl wasn’t a threat. As a black male, he is.
How could I claim a kinship or say I loved him as my own, if I were to ignore the injustices and inequity I see in our society. Inequity and injustices that directly affect him in ways I will never experience first hand. Simple: I can’t. On every subject except racism, I am willing to “agree to disagree” if our opinions are incredibly different and entrenched. I cannot accept that a cosmetic difference is important; black, white, brown, we are all people.
On a related note, if you love Jerome in the Nephilim Narratives you love my nephew. I don’t know if I did it intentionally or not, but after I wrote Natural Born Exorcist I realized many facets of Jerome’s personality had been lifted from my nephew’s. Even during his terrible teens, my nephew spoke softly and extremely well. He is polite, courteous, and kind. He hatched a robin’s egg as a teen… Something tore down a bird’s nest in our yard and one egg survived. He took it home, swaddled it in a towel on a heater, and much to my shock it hatched and we all raised a robin until it got old enough to fly away and take care of itself. He doesn’t anger easily and when he is angry, he prefers to use logical rhetoric to get his point across instead of shouting, being rude, or punching things. Furthermore, he is thoughtful, sympathetic, empathetic, hardworking, and dedicated. He is a good man, but I expected him to turn out well, because he was a good man even as a teenager… Just like Jerome.
Yes, I am an entertainer and it is my job to entertain. But I am also human and the human side of me demands that I use my ability to string words together coherently to fight the injustice and inequity I see in this world.