“Niggas Get Shot Everyday, B:” Why We Can’t Be Numb to Racial Injustice
“Niggas get shot everyday, B.” Cam’ron said this in the gangsta movie classic, Paid in Full.
From the moment it was uttered, the line became iconic. Even 13 years later, memes like the one below are used to solidify its legendary status.
For those unfamiliar, Paid in Full centers around three friends turned drug dealers. One of the drug dealers, Ace, gets shot several times by rival drug dealers. Upon getting out of the hospital, Rico, played by Cam’ron, says his famous line and tells Ace to suck it up. Ace gives him a crazy look and tells him he’s out of the drug dealing game.
Cam’ron told him to just brush it off. It’s nothing. To get shot meant nothing.
I see this same complacency about bullet wounds, mostly fatal, when it comes to police brutality on the basis of racism.
It’s nothing. Just another dead body swinging on a tree.
While gun violence comes with the territory in the field of drug dealing, it should not come with the territory of having dark skin. That is not something to just digest as a normal, everyday occurrence even if it is a normal, everyday occurrence. It’s not right. Death means something. Our lives mean something.
I was given an assignment in Poetry class not too long ago. Our professor told us to write a poem about Ferguson.
I called mine “Dear Unborn Son” and closed the poem with, “‘Layla, why didn’t you go to the candlelight vigil / For Mike Brown? / This is history. You should’ve been there!’ / It’s not that I didn’t care. / Just had something to do. I’ll make it to next year’s.”
I’ll make it to next year’s, I said.
Me. I was one of those complacent, numb black people who’s been guilty of believing “it’s no use.”
You see, throughout my four years in undergrad, I had the opportunity to participate in many protests, especially because I went to a historically black college in the heart of the political center, D.C.
First there was Trayvon Martin’s protest. Then his candlelight vigil. Then there was Michael Brown’s. And his candlelight vigil. Freddie Gray’s protests were just a stone’s throw away from me in Baltimore, but you didn’t see me there, either.
When it was Eric Garner’s turn, my cousin came all the way down from New Jersey to participate in a protest in D.C. He’d even got locked up protesting in the streets of NY not too long ago, but here he was, back at it.
He insisted I come. After all, I was only 15 minutes away from D.C.
The morning of the protest, I lay in bed and stared at the ceiling. My feet wouldn’t move.
I flashed back to the time my mother e-mailed me a news story about how several black boys were lined up and plucked from life one by one, execution style. I didn’t know any of them. I cried my eyes out. It wasn’t due to racist police murders, but gang violence. It made me vow to never watch the news again.
But the news is everywhere. It’s in your social media, in your overheard cafe conversations. It’s in your classroom discussions and poetry assignments. I couldn’t shut myself in a box, so I numbed myself from the pain. Turn off the feelings. Ignore it.
When I heard of these innocent lives being taken, it’s not like I didn’t care. I cared too much.
I cried inside for my slain brothers and sisters.
But you know, I learned that when you block out the pain, you block out the happiness, too. I was living an unhappy life pretending that I didn’t feel things that I did. The pain didn’t go away. Another life would just get claimed and even increase the pain.
It wasn’t going to stop by ignoring it. You have to address it, stare it dead in the eye, chest to chest, chin raised. And kill it. By action.
Whatever your reason for complacency, abolish it. Muster the courage to fight and enact change. We’ve come so far, but we’ve got a long way to go. I know your feet are hurting. They’re blistering really bad and they’re bleeding, but you’ve gotta keep walking.
We don’t need just some of us or most of us. We need all of us. It’s the only way we won’t have to pray for our unborn sons and daughters.