I’m not black, and I’ve never been persecuted for my skin color. But. I know what it’s like to endure years of unrelenting abuse at the hands of power.
If you’ve never experienced it, if your mind can’t grasp the scale, then maybe this personal story will help you understand.
My mother beat the shit out of me from 3 to 13. CRUNCH! There’s no suitable onomatopoeia for the sound of an adult’s hand belting a child across the face. There’s no word that describes what it’s like to feel your cartilage ring. She’d backhand me across the face for nothing, out of nowhere. She’d beat me with whatever was handy — spoon, belt, hand — and she’d always scream at me that it was my fault. I made her do it. There was always a reason, always a transgression. “You’re only hurting yourself!” CRACK!
By the time I was four years old, I had a strategy: If I feigned sleep when she carried me to the car each morning, I might be safe… for a little while. If I was asleep, I couldn’t offend her somehow, and maybe she wouldn’t hit me… that morning.
She broke my nose when I was so small that nobody noticed, and it was never treated.
She finally stopped, though. She stopped the day I got old enough, and big enough, and desperate enough to strike back. I threw a basketball at her. I knocked her down.
And she called the cops… on me.
Yes, that’s right, she never called the cops on herself — her large, adult, child-beating self. She called the cops on her tween daughter who dared strike back, with a tiny fraction of firepower.
Does this sound familiar at all?
I lived my early years in constant terror, rage, and despair because the person who was in charge of my very life was the person who was bound to destroy me.
Imagine what that was like. Imagine if that were you. Imagine if you lived under the control of a “person” who beat the shit out of you, who had ingrained the fear and control so deep into you that you were formulating avoidance strategies at just four years old.
Now imagine if it wasn’t just one abusive shithead, but a thousand of them, roaming your neighborhood.
And imagine if you weren’t safe from them at school. Imagine if they could do it to you in school, and no one would stop them…
And imagine that they didn’t just beat you… everyone you knew and loved was at risk. Grandmas. Little kids. Pregnant women. Stupid kids doing stupid shit. All in constant fear.
And some of them got hauled away, never to return.
And some of them got beaten to death.
And some of their spines “mysteriously” broke during a ride in a police car.
Growing up with a flinch the size of a city.
Feigning sleep to avoid a punch to the face… for a few hours, maybe.
No, I don’t “condone” burning buildings, but I can tell you that more buildings have burned or collapsed in my city, Philadelphia, in the last year due to criminal negligence perpetuated by city government than have been burned by protestors in Baltimore. I don’t “condone” looting, or throwing shit at cops. I also don’t “condone” schools without books, or criminalizing school-kid infractions. I don’t “condone” violence.
But I understand it totally.
Sometimes it’s all you can do, because everything else has failed. Pleading for an abuser to stop never works. I know, because I begged for years: Mommy, please….
Abusers abuse because they want to abuse. They can stop at any time, but they don’t. They must be made to stop. Force is the only language they understand.
I am not proud of kicking my mother in the shins, or knocking her over, or locking her out of the house, or stealing her money, or all the things I screamed at her, or any of the things I did in response to the things she did to me.
I was a bad person. Truly.
But… she made me that way. I learned at her knee. Over her knee. At the end of a belt, or a wooden spoon. At the back of her hand in the car, at the grocery store.
It was still wrong for me to kick her. And yet… when I kicked and screamed, the beatings stopped.
Do you blame me?
She made me that way, and it’s taken most of my lifetime to break free of that early education. To be my own person, instead of a throbbing bundle of nerve endings.
But she was just one woman.
I fled her house at 15 because I knew, honestly, if I stayed, one of us was going to end up dead… and it wasn’t going to be me. I was filled with rage; no, there was nothing else left inside me at all. I was rage.
Luckily, she was one woman; I didn’t have to go far.
And I had books, a computer, the internet, a library… I had friends whose parents didn’t beat them up, I even had adult friends, who had jobs, careers, happy lives. I could see the outside world was not like the world I had to live in. That it wasn’t normal.
I had that.
What if I had nothing?
What if endless terror and violence was all I ever knew?
All that everyone I knew ever knew?
What if it wasn’t one psychopath, but an entire system?
An entire government?
And nobody cared?
Now read the people who write about it, because it’s reality.
I have; they scream at me. The staged confrontations, the manipulation of events, the denial. Right down to calling in the National Guard… not to investigate the culture of wrongdoing, not to stop the abuse of its citizenry, not to root out the evil and destroy it… but to quell the people who finally couldn’t take it any more. It’s all too fucking familiar. A million times bigger, and a million times worse.
Yes, violence is wrong, no doubt about it. But is it unjustified?
If you’re still not sure, keep reading. This. This. This. Read their whole streams, really. And this: unarmed man charged with assault for bystanders hit with bullets fired by police. Yes, this is real life.