Every black person with white friends has had the moment; the moment when your friends suggest doing something crazy or off the wall for fun, and you automatically freeze and back out. It's not because you're not enjoying yourself, or because you don't want to be part of the group. It's because whatever they're suggesting, in your mind, may very possibly involve the police. And as the last 18 months in America have shown, when police officers and black men occupy the same space for any extended period, generally the black man goes to jail or the graveyard.
White people don't have it like that. Their relationship with the police is totally different from what black people can expect, as the incidents at the University of Kentucky after their loss to Wisconsin and last fall's Pumpkinfest riot at Keene State College in New Hampshire showed. Every photo and video I saw of both incidents looked like riots to me, but very rarely were they reported as such. With very few exceptions, the news media categorized them as "college kids letting off steam"; never mind the fact that they were violent and destroying property. The indulgence is real. I have seen drunk white girls cursing and stumbling into cops and be allowed to walk to their cars, and drive away. I've watched drunken frat boys mouth off to cops at nightclub entrances without being slammed to the concrete. It's always fascinating to see because it's a great lesson in how privilege works on those who use it and those who are subservient to it.
The latest example of white indulgence of white violence was last week's gang war between rival bikers in Waco, Texas. Nine people were killed but the mainstream media referred to the bloodbath as a "brawl" or an "altercation." If a beef between Crips and Bloods had erupted into open warfare in the same way, the media coverage would have been apocalyptic and continuous 24/7. There was a police presence, but no National Guard; there was violence, but no trolls on internet message boards calling the biker gangs "thugs", or asking where their parents were, or saying that the community needs to take responsibility for the actions of these individuals.
If you were an HBCU student from the late 1980's to the late 1990's, then you probably remember Freaknik. For those who don't, Freaknik was basically a mobile block party of about half a million black college kids that rolled into Atlanta every spring break weekend. Car stereos, warm sun, bare black skin and new Miami bass tracks combined to create spontaneous dance parties on Peachtree Street and in every parking lot from Bankhead to Buckhead. Every year when the party started, the old white establishment of the city behaved as if the Vikings were invading. Stores would close, people left town, cops would throw a cordon around the city as if they were herding animals. For the most part, nothing really crazy happened; or at least I can't recall any time when a group of FAMU, Morehouse or Grambling students tore down lamp posts and fought cops. Nevertheless, perception became hysteria and the city eventually shut it down.
If those were black kids rioting in Kentucky or New Hampshire, or black gangs warring in Waco, you already know what the outcome would be: Ferguson, Part II. It's sad because when society criminalizes everything that black people do it creates an underclass of criminals, and it fosters the belief in black minds that everything they do is criminal -- which the larger culture is more than willing to accept.
All kids need to let off steam; but it's unfair for only certain kids to be vilified for it.