White media outlets are dragging Chad Coleman through the mud for a recent outburst he had in public and I’m really not trying to hear it. Black rage is legitimate, and anyone who doesn’t respect that doesn’t understand the first thing about today’s civil rights movement.
Coleman, the actor who’s played Tyreese on “The Walking Dead” and Cutty on “The Wire” made headlines this weekend for causing a scene during a NYC subway ride. On Saturday, the famous actor apologized for losing his temper after two fellow riders were trying to place where they knew his face and referred to him by using the N-word. According to Coleman, one rider dismissed him by saying, “No, we don’t know that n*****.”
“The Walking Dead” actor became so infuriated by the racial epithet that he bellowed his frustration in response, verifying his identity and chiding the riders for their insensitivity.
If you ask me, Coleman didn’t really have much to apologize for. Sure, the actor did get extremely excited and he startled a lot of people with his three-minute long rant. But his anger was completely valid whether or not other people on the train (or around the web) are willing to see and admit that. Furthermore, Coleman’s rant didn’t come from nowhere; he was provoked by someone’s words of hate and he had every right to be emotional about it. TMZ, Fox, ET, Variety and a whole host of other sites skewed this story by sensationalizing Coleman’s words and calling them “nonsensical.” But they can all have a stadium of seats because Coleman had every right to feel the way he did and to speak on it however he pleased.
Unsurprisingly, Coleman admitted that his outburst was rooted in his emotions about the racial tension around the recent events in Baltimore and the events of the #blacklivesmatter movement at large. I think that anyone who has been following the movement with even the slightest attention would have shared his outrage. For months, our country (and our world) has been debating which is the greater evil: the unjust, brutal actions of police officers who abuse their authority or the senseless criminal acts of disenfranchised, lower class people of color. What has been missing from that debate is the acknowledgement that young black people (especially our young black men) are continuously being provoked and cast as perpetrators—on top of being confined by achievement gaps and institutional racism.
The issue with the murders committed by officers like Darren Wilson, Daniel Pantaleo, Michael Slager and now the six infamous men of the Baltimore Police Department isn’t just that they wrongfully denied young black men their right to live. It’s that they each attacked vulnerable men that weren’t seriously harming anyone with their words, police batons, tasters and guns, It’s that they said anything they could to tarnish victims’ legacies and blame them for their own deaths. Finally, it’s that their rash, violent actions have done more to damage the public perception of black men than they will ever damage the authoritative power of America’s police force.
When Coleman acted out on that subway train, he acted out because he was afraid and because he is a human being walking around in a black man’s body—always being tested, always at a severe risk. If we could all take the theme of humanity more seriously, we can acknowledge that the feeling of fear doesn’t discriminate—even when it’s bubbling inside of the body of someone’s that usually depicted as a threat to others.