Disillusionment at the Sheraton
Kimani Gray Response
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 01:03
It felt like I was finally making it. After years of writing, I finally got my first scholarship. The money funded my stay at Time Square’s Sheraton Hotel, where the College Media Convention – one of the nation’s most well known learning events for college journalists – was being held.
My 29th-floor room fit my youthful hubris. The pillows and sheets were pure white and fluffy. The room was always the right temperature. The liquor and snacks were conveniently placed in a refrigerator. My roommates and I would get charged if we even moved any of those chips or bottles, but it all seemed like a minor inconvenience during those three days.
So we cavorted. We gossiped. Everything outside of Midtown or our newspaper didn’t seem to matter until a friend of mine pierced my really expensive, room-serviced bubble via Facebook message on Monday night.
“Heard about the riots by ya [sic] crib,” he said.
The tequila started to taste bitter.
By now it’s national news. Kimani Gray, a 16-year-old high school student of Jamaican and Guyanese descent, was gunned down by police officers in East Flatbush after allegedly pointing a revolver at them. Gray was shot seven times; three bullets penetrated his back. The shooting occurred on East 52nd Street – less than five blocks away from my house.
Monday was the first in a series of wild protests against the shooting. Like the shooting, these protests – which splintered into riots – occurred blocks away from my house.
I knew my mother was home during events, so I semi-frantically stumbled to the bathroom to call her.
“Hey, I heard about the riots. Is everything all right?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
I pressed the red button not too long after. I threw on my tie with a smile, then the brown cardigan and finally a coat, and soon, my colleagues and I were out to the bar.
Out of sight, out of mind.
The pictures, tweets and follow-up news came in the following days as I stayed over at Syracuse University with a friend that week. The Rite Aid at Church Avenue – the one where I bought everything from condoms to Herbal Essence moisturizing shampoo – had been ransacked. The lighted bodegas and grocery stores – the last thing I saw before I took my nightly, 15-minute high school naps on the B35 – were passing routes for protesters.
Everything that I’ve become accustomed to in the 10 years since I’ve moved there were suddenly symbols of the constant racial tensions with the law – gathering places of civil unrest.
Then came the questions: Did Gray really point a gun at the cops? Were the cops telling the truth? Was the fact that he may’ve been in a gang supposed to breathe some odd sigh of relief because he wasn’t one of the innocent ones? Were the cops again at fault? Was martial law really necessary?
I was disturbed. Not because of the fact this was the same neighborhood that help mold me into a man, where riots were occurring on the bus routes I’ve often favored or cocksuredly blasted My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in my iPod during summer afternoons.
I was disturbed because I’ve become indifferent despite the fact this was occurring in my neighborhood. Look at the names: Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Abner Louima. Every time the African-American community and civil rights community has gone through the same cycle. We have the mourning of these individuals, followed by the martyring of the victims and the proceeding protests. Rinse and repeat.
Every time the same things are made clear. The police’s constant perceived transgressions against blacks is so repetitive that I feel like we’ve internalized it as part of the minority experience.
Then there are the elders who truly believe the youth is supposed to adapt to such problems as if we’re supposed to accept a flawed society. There’s the inner city youth that’s just filled with rage – this anger that’s been influenced by the poverty, negative perceptions, the me-against-the world mentality … all of this stuff they’ve been damned with while finding ways to transmute that rage. Some die before they ever figure out how to do so.
Citizens versus the law. Youth versus old. Minorities versus the perceived powers that be. America is a society that runs on schisms, and it has been for centuries.
I spent the following Monday night researching different articles about the Gray situation as if there was some hidden solution or minor detail that would put everything into perspective.
Then I got tired and went to sleep. I had class in the morning.