The is an abbreviation of the true story I had the privilege of hearing in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, over diner food at 3 AM, after a really fun warehouse party.
I am not arguing politics, and I understand that the account of one man does not reflect the morals/attitude of the entire force or an entire demographic. I am merely recounting a story, which moved me, from a friend. Thank you for reading and understanding.
“In the Army, they trained us to be killers. And at 18, you know, it was almost like a video game. We were the heroes in this all American story-line. How many bad guys can we get today? We didn’t even think about it as taking lives. We didn’t really think about it at all. We were just doing our jobs.
But the more time I spent in these war zones; the more mothers I saw out there cooking, men hanging out, drinking, playing cards, and all the kids running around, laughing… the more it reminded me of the hood! These are people like us. The civilians were just poor people living their lives.
My family never had money. You could say we grew up in the ghetto. No jobs available, and it wasn’t common for those around me to go to college. And I didn’t want to end up in jail, or as just another gang-banger, you know. I wanted to do something good, so it made sense to join the military.
Until one day, on those streets of Iraq, I watched my troop gun-down a whole car of innocent people.
We had waved at them to ‘stop’ or I guess, ‘halt’, but they really thought we were just waving ‘hello’. They continued driving, and the next second, they were all dead. For nothing.
That day got me fucked up.
The next time we were under fire, I took off all my protective gear; my helmet, everything, and I screamed ‘kill me’!
I didn’t care. I didn’t want to do it anymore. At least then, I figured, they’d send my family some money.
I didn’t die though.
So here I am. I do get disability checks now, so that’s nice.
But my neighborhood is so different, I’m still not used to it.
The other day, I saw a white girl running! And my first thought was… oh shit, does she need help? But she was just exercising. Like, she jogged at a real leisurely pace, right past a house that used to be a trap. That’s when I noticed the Sale sign out front… and the fact that the place had been fixed up nice.
People have been coming by, trying to convince my grandma to sell her house, but she won’t budge. She said maybe her future great-grandkids can grow up in a safe neighborhood, you know… instead of being pushed to the edge of society over and over again.
Anyway, my point in this story is that my experience in the Army did put my life into perspective.
All my friends growing up would say ‘fuck the police’, you know, and I was torn between agreeing with them and also wondering if maybe we were destined to be bad guys or something.
I wanted to be a good guy. I tried… but still didn’t end up as one.
I think maybe that’s the problem with police. They think they’re the good guys and these poor people are villains. They don’t see the roots of the problems in our individual lives — they see crime rates and statistics.
So they treat the hood like a war zone. It kind of is a war zone, you know?
People, including cops, think we’re delinquents just because of the life we were born into. They don’t want to think about he systematic oppression we face, like lack of community funding, education, resources, negligent government, and trickle down from segregation, even.
They say ‘it’s not about race’ and use examples of successful black folk to try and convince us that all we have to do to get out is ‘change our attitude’ or whatever, but that’s not really fair. They obviously had some opportunities we didn’t, so they probably got some internalized racism from not wanting to be stereotyped, and not wanting their achievements to be minimized, I guess.
It makes sense. But it ain’t right.
I’m just tired of people coming up with all these weird justifications for killing black people.
I was trained to be a killer by the United States government in attempt to change the context of violence in my life. But I didn’t end the cycle. I only ended up on another side of it, somewhere else.
It’s like everybody seeing each other as enemies is how we become enemies, you know?
We should fix that.”