Editor’s note: Author Dan Green is native of Lake Tahoe who now lives in Sacramento. He plays in the bands Black Star Safari and Ten Foot Tiger. He originally posted this piece on Facebook.
I thought I’d share this story in honor of Black History month. I figure this is what Facebook is for. Huge mistake? I hope people won’t take this the wrong way, but I’m sure someone will. In any case I’d like to share the first time I experienced systemic racism.
I grew up in Carson/Tahoe, which at the time had a pretty much non-existent African-American population. Which I suppose could be argued as its own form of racism. Then I found my way to Humboldt, where everyone was pretty, pretty, pretty generally chill and respectful.
So I didn’t experience real racism firsthand until I moved to Milwaukee with (Jason) Lampman and was playing in a hip-hop band called Closed Caption. A culture shock to say the least. Milwaukee is rad, but it was/is a tough, segregated town. Everyone else in the band was African-American and we became extremely close, as anyone in a band knows. It was one of the most difficult and amazing times of my life. I am thankful for it, but it blew my mind as well. I was totally naive. Little stuff in their neighborhoods I noticed that they shook off burned me up. Buses never on time, plows didn’t do their streets. Ambulances came late, or never. Totally new to me, but normal, frustrating bullshit for them.
The big thing, though, was I noticed how scared of one another people were. It was a total shock that whenever we’d throw a party at our house (white kids) the proverbial record scratch when my friends entered. And they had to save me from getting beat down just for being at theirs. It was unreal to me. Some stupid idea I didn’t get. Just a bunch of individuals being ignorant and thinking that race somehow controls character. But the real shock came at a rehearsal one day.
We were practicing at my drummer’s house, not the nicest neighborhood, but it’s Milwaukee. We took a break, smoked a blig and two of the MC’s and I walked to the liquor store for some snacks. We were walking back to practice, eating snacks, and a police car came screeching up onto the sidewalk. The cop in the passenger seat jumped out and leaned on the hood of the patrol car and aimed his gun at us. “Freeze! Hands in the air! Get against the fence!”
I had never had a gun pointed at me. It’s not a great feeling. I proceeded to shit my stoned pants as we followed their directions. They frisked us all for absolutely no reason then grabbed me and pulled me aside. “Are you OK?” The officer asked me. “What?” I said, still trying to figure out what the fuck was going on. “Do you know these men? Are they threatening you?” he asked. “Are. You. Serious?! Yes!” I told them and said we were walking to rehearsal.
They got back in their car and left. Left a lasting impression to say the least. A lot of things to digest. Do we think everyone’s rights are treated equally? Do we feel like everyone’s safety is given the same priority? Do we try to see everyone from the same lens? Does the system? This is what our friends, family, loved ones deal with everyday. Equally bright beings of light, sons and daughters of god, random collections of cells, HUMANS being treated emphatically unequally. We gotta keep moving. Work toward being equally kind. Equally loving. Equally respectful. EQUALITY. EQUALITY. EQUALITY. EQUALITY.
Love you all!
– Dan Green