For most of White America, thirty-two year-old Ryan Lochte is REALLY a “Kid” who “Embellished” a story; while video shows he and his fellow thugs vandalized a gas station and (Lochte) became an international fugitive. On the other hand, twelve year-old Tamir Rice was quickly and widely portrayed to be a potential villain who should not have been doing what actual kids do: playing with a fake gun and not aiming it at the police. Asking “What did he do?”; considering “his troubled past”; and empathizing with the power structure when it has acted with vile negligence seems to be acceptable, provocative, and debatable “go-tos” when African American men, women, boys and girls – PEOPLE – are victimized by the police – or any other systematic form of racism. You might be reading this and automatically visualizing a white person asking these questions; but, the truth is, many African Americans must work through fighting urges to consider things which make African American victims line up with the stereotypes that invoke apathy-causing images; a recourse that is easier than facing the truth that tyrannical racism is not a thing of the past.

In large part, it makes much more sense for Whites (though many also fight these urges) to ponder all things that justify the swift ruling out of racism in situations where an African American life has been lost. However, the more important consideration is: Why do African Americans participate in this process of walking toward racism as a possibility – as opposed to walking away from the likelihood of an episode of racist violence? The latter is severely deleterious to our plight against an infrastructure that has proven to work toward our demise.

For centuries, we have been taught that African Americans were vile, inept, barbaric, and savage; but, not so fast, “were” must be replaced with “are”, here. In other words: For centuries, we have been taught that we are vile, inept, barbaric, and savage. We often call for others – Whites – to consider us human, when the truth is, many of us do not accept our OWN humaneness. Now, do not mistake this with the ignorant advancement of that respectability bullsh*t. However, we must consciously practice honoring our communal humaneness – exclusive of any outside occurrences and opinions that might communicate a deficit. THAT is where our power for marked change in our world standing will come from. If we do not own and fully function in it, there will be no power to see the change we claim to seek. Building a culture of humaneness within, will command respect without; not because racists will suddenly care about us – rather be forced to respond to our collective power.

In case it is not already clear, this is NOT about the fake notion of “Black on Black Crime”; attached to the asinine propaganda that African American men do not want to be fathers to their children; or any other supremacist stereotype that disaffirms our humanity. As the spiritual principle goes: There is no power without conviction. Without collective conviction in the belief that we ARE human – deserving of the rights we seek – there is no power behind our demand for equity. If, however, enough of us connect to the fact that we are deserving of true life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, we can change the culture of our internal community in a way that will affect the outside world from within.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the fact that slowly, yet surely, we are moving to the place where collective consciousness is becoming the norm; a place where the comparison between white privilege and Black angst will make more than a ripple in the sea of time and events. This is my source of hope. We African Americans have the ability to significantly impact the culture of American Racism as a bi-product of operating in our power. However, this cannot happen without conviction about that fact that we, are indeed, HUMAN.

Written By: Carlton J. Cosby