I treat my eyes as if windowpanes allowing me to see a perfect view of life. My perspective is all I have.
I finally found the equally important time and energy to express this perspective as it relates to the cataclysm between LAPD and the students of the University of Southern California, as well as the following Dr. Dre aftermath (pun intended).
The evening of May 3rd, to me, was a celebration deeper than just the last day of classes. It was the culmination of literal blood, sweat, and tears over the course of last 5 years. Nearly three of those years were spent at other colleges building up my academic portfolio so that I could transfer to USC. And my next 2 years as a USC student were either spent recovering from a gunshot wound that almost took my life, dedicating my time to community service projects that included creating a mentorship program for Foster Care youth and at-risk teens in the LAUSD system, or various artistic projects. I was celebrating the fact I proved the Romans 8:31 Bible verse, “If God is for us, who can be against us,” correct. I should probably read the book more often because I got a variation of that specific verse tattooed on my chest in 2008, substituting the word “us” for “me” (vain act, or premonition, decide for yourself). Long story shorter, this was my time to enjoy the fruits of my labor.
Before the party on 23rd St, I was at a banquet on a yacht in recognition of all the hard work the Directors and Assistant Directors of Program Board accomplished over the course the year. I was the AD for the Black Student Assembly so I wanted to share in the final moments with my classmates who all helped provide the school with remarkable events and concerts in the 2012-13 academic school year.
I wiped the elated smile off my face along with the mucus that sprayed from the mouth of an officer yelling, “disperse” about an hour later. The most interesting view from my windowpane eyes as I helped move the crowd down the street were a few classmates of mine from the yacht banquet tucked safely across the street at an identical party on 23rd St. I worked just as hard as them. I produced just as many events of substantial quality. And moreover, I was celebrating my accomplishments with friends in a peaceful manner. Why wasn’t their party being handled with the same intensity? Was there a difference?
I understood that difference when an officer nonchalantly stated that “if it had been 20 years ago, [they] could’ve beaten [me] to a bloody pulp, left [me] in the street, and there would’ve been nothing [I] could do about it.” Clearly a USC education wasn’t necessary to calculate the rough 20-year mark of the televised Rodney King beating.
A couple points resonated with me about this comment. One was that his statement reaffirmed my thinking that the actions of LAPD that night were indeed race based and that in his mind, 79 police officers in riot gear and a helicopter was an example of letting us off easy. The second point I realized is that no matter what I do in life, as a black male I will be constantly scrutinized with an innate skepticism that seems to be burned into the minds of my society. The fact that it was 20-years after the Rodney King beating and he felt comfortable saying what he said to me is a testament to how far we, as a society, have to go.
As I was walking away to refuge after the ordeal had subsided, I stopped to speak to 3 students to gauge how much media attention the 79 LAPD officers and helicopter on Hoover was getting. The group consisted of two girls and one guy, all of Asian decent. They were still pretty drunk and were waiting on a friend to come let them into the front lobby of an apartment complex. They had no idea what I was referring to so I calmly explained to them the situation expecting their jaws to drop at any given moment. Instead it was my jaw that dropped at what I heard next. In her tired, slightly slurred words she said, “Well you guys shot the guy on Halloween and you guys murdered the two Asian students so I think you deserve it. That’s what LAPD should do.” Baffled I told her, “well you know that neither of those incidents were USC students so by “you guys”…you mean?” She gives me the most irritated look in the world and her friend, who was equally irritated by my presence said to her, “Ugh! Just let him leave!” Literally sick to my stomach, I continued my night’s walk to avoid any more drama. I was more heart broken than infuriated because through her uninhibited tone I could tell that her opinion was likely to be shared by other USC students. She just needed the liquid courage to tell me to my face.
The following two weeks were the most stressful of my life, or at least equivalent to a couple nights in the hospital with a hole in my chest. On top of the finals and trying to figure out where to begin my life legacy, I now had the burden of helping orchestrate a movement that had an essence of what was seen in the 60’s, but was unique to our generation’s ability to mobilize using social media as a catalyst. My body and stress do not mix. I lost 15lbs in that time because my body began rejecting food. I remember vomiting in the hallway trash can moments before accepting the “Survivor Award” from the Center of Black Culture and Student Affairs office with a humble smile.
Stress is different than anger. I wasn’t angry because although I was in the epicenter of the storm, nothing that happened to me was the direct result of my own actions. Instead it was the result of how others felt of my complexion. Therefore the only personal responsibility that I took on was the weight of the voiceless minorities in my city that were looking to us to remain strong and endure so that we could all share in victory.
I was angered however when I sat down and fully read Walter M. Kimbrough’s “Why USC and not a black college, Dr. Dre?” article in the LA Times. As I said earlier, I am only sharing my own life perspective. And through my windowpane eyes a black male physically shot me down over a pair of Dre Beat headphones when I first got to USC, and in my last week at USC another black male verbally shot me down over Dr. Dre again. I do not have a Bible verse embedded in my skin fit for an ironic circumstance such as this, but it does make me reconsider omens.
I worked, in lack of a better term, “my ass” off to overcome more obstacles at the age of 23 than most 40 year olds in order to rise to the ranks I currently hold today, and in the midst of our movement against social injustice this man had the audacity to tell me and classmates we are not worthy of such an endowment?
In his article, Mr. Kimbrough quoted that “ [a] new report on black male athletes and racial inequities shows that only 2.2% of USC undergrads are black men, compared with 56% of its football and basketball teams, one of the largest disparities in the nation.” And though this is not a backed up fact, I’d say roughly only 30% of that 2.2% of black, Trojan men are non-athletes. This leaves less than 1% of the student population at the University of Southern California to those that are similar to me. For those that reside on the west coast, specifically in LA and Compton cherish USC as a prize within our community. In Dr. Dre’s childhood, the opportunities to attend USC for young black kids were even slimmer than they are now. Most of the kids from my generation only experience life at USC vicariously through the fictional lives of the LA natives Quincy and Monica in the movie Love & Basketball by Gina Prince Bythewood, which was released in the year 2000. With that being said, our 1% is more like Dr. Dre than anyone else. We are rare breeds of men that succeeded in spite of our environments. The misconception that because we are at USC, we were born with silver spoons in our mouth could not be farther from the truth. I chose USC over Howard because I wanted to attend the best university from my given options, and not just the best university for blacks. More importantly, it was cheaper for me to attend USC than a HBU because they can afford better financial packages. That is called being economically savvy, not selling out.
Without Dr. Dre and other black males who I witnessed rise to greatness, I may have never had the heart to fight for my life or the courage to thrive in an environment that is historically inconsistent with substantial black success. I can understand fear and hatred from those outside of my race. That fear stems in ignorance and is perpetuated by the daily stereotypes they consume in their choice of media. What I cannot accept is the fear and hatred we as blacks have amongst each other. Why write an article condemning a man who is not even an alumni of the institutions of which you praise? Why not instead ask that the esteemed alumnus of those institutions to follow his lead and donate what they can to their alma maters in-need? Do not get me wrong. The money donated by Dr. Dre would have completely transformed an HBCU, but it also may have encouraged more black youth to pursue their academic careers at USC. At the end of the day, we have been pushed out and pushed around for far too long to continue the exhibition of this “crabs in a bucket” mentality.
The police officers may view me as a criminal, a few ignorant students at USC may view me as a monster, and other blacks may see me a member of an illusory bourgeoisie that they continuously take shots at, but my degree tells me that I am a Trojan. And as I stood tall walking across the stage embracing the cheers from family and friends, I also took with me the permanent scars from the incidents that transpired during my time at USC. I still have a bullet lodged in my lower right lung and a skull full of “USChangemovement” memories that will continuously replay in my head forever. Each memory and scar will serve as a reminder of who I am, what I have been through, and how far I have to go. I am not sure how quickly our society will evolve, but I do know that before the curtains close on my windowpane eyes, the 6% of African-Americans I met at USC will be amongst the main catalyst for that evolution.
Every story ends in a catharsis and this song describes my personal purgation: