Growing up in Brooklyn during this time was an experience steeped in racializations — from the oppressor and the oppressed — and it made my childhood neurotically defensive.
During my teenage years, nearly everything I have been exposed to from the poverty in urban enclaves, to the wealth in suburbias and the possibilities at that time that were made in Manhattan was attributable to the oft-explained forces of racialized phenomena.
The racism of whites and its caustic influence and scandalous effects on society did not only promote and promulgate despondency and disrepair for Black communities it also incited and prompted a dissonance of sheer indignation for Black people.
In this concrete jungle, my Jamaican parents did their best to shelter me in a three bedroom apartment with my other four brothers and sisters by reincorporating the very same segregation tactics and fear-mongering galvanized by the vanity and insanity of whiteness. Their reinterpretation of the politics during this time instilled in me an anger and general distrust in people altogether. It was seen as necessary in order to navigate and ensure our survivability in the midst of this ever present racialized chaos.
This chaos includes the murder of Yusuf Hawkins who was attacked along with three of his friends by a white mob wielding bats before being fatally shot in Bensonhurst in 1989. Or When Michael Griffith was beaten up by an angry white mob that chased him and his friends out of Howard Beach. Griffith succumbed to injuries of being hit by a car trying to flee from his attackers. Curiously, none of these incidences were described as some ritualized wildin’ though, even though there is a historical record of this kind of racist behavior invoked by whiteness.
Racialization causes a chain of negative reactions that reinforce destabilizing social effects. It is what has led to many injustices perpetrated by a callousness bred in our very own constituition and sanctioned by our institutions. Ava Duverney’s presentation of its effects in “When They See Us” exemplifies this. I appreciate your thoughts and review on this Clay, as watching and rehashing this event which is especially unerving for me as someone who has had to live through it in terms of proximity is a wrenching exercise for me to this day.
All I can say is that I was just lucky but these young men weren’t.