When I was younger, my mother showed me an old photograph of a hotel manager pouring acid into a pool where black patrons were swimming. The pool, you see, was meant for "white swimmers only." She asked me, "Why do you think I don't do public pools?" My very practical mother knew that other kids peeing where I was swimming was the very least of our problems. She didn't let me go to public pools because, in my mother's head, the pool in the picture could be any pool, the hotel manager could be any white person, even one who didn't work there —no matter the year. I didn't understand it then, but, when I first learned of the McKinney party, that photo was the first to pop into my mind. My mother's fear came along with it.
According to the many young people who attended last weekend's pool party in McKinney, Texas (which eventually became a viral video sensation), the incident began when two white women and a white male began to spit racial slurs at two of the party attendees, saying things like, "go back to section 8 [public housing]" and "do something with your lives." The young girl pictured in this video (Tatyana Rhodes, 19) stood up for her friends as the two women and man continued to deploy racial slurs and rude comments. This escalates as one of the women slaps Tatyana in the face. Nearby residents call the police and mention that a fight has ensued.
One cop car shows up, and he calls dispatch for nine more cop cars. The police arrive, and frantically demand that the young people sit on the ground. Most of the teens comply, only to witness an officer grab a young, bikini-clad Dajerria Becton (14) by the hair. He violently shoves her face into the ground, and presses his knee into her small frame to detain her. You can see in the video that she was not moving at all. Some of the other young people rush to protect her as she's thrown to the ground, and two other the assisting officers pull out guns and chase the teenagers away. You can watch the video in full below.
I don't know if those McKinney cops actually hate black people. The cops may or may not have actually thought that pulling out loaded guns on a bunch of unarmed teenagers was the most effective way to handle this incredibly mild situation. I don't really need to know if either of those things are true, because we get lucky with this story. We can throw all of our speculations away. We don't need to wonder about anything. Because at every moment of the McKinney conflict, even the fight that prompted the conflict, someone was watching - and he recorded the whole thing.
These videos show us, based on both the actions of the older white woman and of the cop, that the dignity and lives of the African-American children at the party were of little value to the community. One brave kid, 14-year-old Brandon Brooks, put his physical and legal safety at risk to make sure we got the whole story. "I was one of the only white people in the area when that was happening," he told a news station. "You can see in part of the video where he tells us to sit down, and he kind of like skips over me and tells all my African-American friends to go sit down."
Brandon had nothing to gain or prove from being vigilant and paying attention to the dynamic unfolding in front of him. Rather, his motives were simple: The people being unjustly treated were his friends, and they were not safe. The only power he had in that moment was his whiteness. His whiteness kept him safe and gave him the freedom to record the whole thing in plain sight. He sacrificed the safety of his privilege to protect his friends. That is what it means to be an ally, or even better, an accomplice against racism.
For the oppressed, racism is isolating. And white complacency perpetuates that feeling of isolation. When incidents of racial violence occur, white bystanders are often silent, and choose to remain uninvolved. In the past few days since the video has gone viral (thanks in no small part to the ongoing reporting by David Mack at Buzzfeed), the officer has resigned (probably by force), and a Change.org petition for Bank of America to fire the woman who assaulted the teen has already earned over 3,000 signatures.
But had there been no camera, no one to set the record straight, then we would be in a very different situation right now. And had the police not completely overlooked the white teenager videotaping this situation, it might be harder for us to identify this as racism.
What if this were the norm? What if white people spoke out or stood up every single time someone said or did something racist, or when an especially violent racist incident occurs? Racists would know that they are being held accountable. Racists would feel less comfortable about publicly displaying racism, and the likelihood of someone performing a racist act would decrease.
There is more power than you think in being a good friend and being a good person. In this case, a good, brave friend framed the narrative of a story that now has an entire nation supporting the people of McKinney who were wronged at that pool party. Friendship—not politics, not hatred for police—made Brandon do the right thing. What kind of friend will you be today?
How a 16-Year-Old Boy Spent One Thousand Days in Prison Without a Trial
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Breakthrough in Baltimore: Freddie Gray's Death Is Ruled a Homicide
- ^ last weekend's pool party (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ this video (www.youtube.com)
- ^ shoves her face into the ground (twitter.com)
- ^ told a news station (cw33.com)
- ^ ongoing reporting by David Mack at Buzzfeed (www.buzzfeed.com)
- ^ resigned (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ Change.org petition (www.change.org)
- ^ How a 16-Year-Old Boy Spent One Thousand Days in Prison Without a Trial (www.teenvogue.com)
- ^ What We Need to Understand About Freddie Gray and Baltimore (www.teenvogue.com)
- ^ Breakthrough in Baltimore: Freddie Gray's Death Is Ruled a Homicide (www.teenvogue.com)
Source : http://www.teenvogue.com/my-life/2015-06/mckinney-texas-pool-party-video
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