The Good Negroes
Art and Conversations about Racism in America Part 1
by Amanda Cherry
“A good negro does what is expected.”
“A good negro is agreeable.”
These statements could have been made in the 1800s at the height of slavery. A St. Louis born artist took these comments from discussion boards, media comment boards, and social media a few weeks after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and created art pieces that speak to the “black experience.”
“My artwork, since I was a kid, was about how do I express my value as an African American man?” the artist explains. “The Good Negroes is a reflection of what I have seen and heard… one of the things I consistently saw and heard on discussion boards and from talking heads after the shooting of Michael Brown was, why can’t black people just be happy with what they have?”
If you had met the artist in the St. Louis neighborhood he grew up in, you might have had a very different reaction to him, versus meeting him at the Holmeswood Baptist Church, 9700 Holmes Rd., where he was a guest speaker for the KC Raw talks on racism in June.
Several weeks before the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, five Dallas police officers, and three officers in Baton Rogue, Rev. Dr. Terrell Carter spoke about his experiences with racism both as a black man and a community activist. Having served his community as a minister from the age of 16, a professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, holding two Doctorate degrees in ministry, a Bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and organizational leadership, a Masters of Fine Art in Arts Management and Leadership, and serving on the St. Louis police department for five years, he poses no threat to the community. As an African-American man who stands over six feet tall, with a shaved head, beard and a broad physique, he recognizes he may intimidate people in certain settings. It is his appearance, not his resume, that precipitates being regularly stopped by police and questioned about his “reason for being there”.
In one of the books Carter has authored, “Walking the Thin Blue Line” he describes an incident that occurred when he was a young recruit. “As a 23 year-old police academy recruit for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, I was stopped by an officer from a county municipality who told me he was suspicious of me because I wasn’t driving fast enough. Then while talking to me, he noticed that I was wearing my academy issued jacket. A look of shock came over his face when I confirmed that I was an academy recruit for the City of St. Louis. The officer then apologized for stopping me and said, ‘I hope that you won’t make a big deal out of this.’ Basically, he was worried about me reporting him for racial profiling.”
Carter goes into great detail concerning the problems plaguing many police departments across the nation. Problems that include: lack of independent oversight concerning police brutality or shootings, lack of diversity in leadership and in training, and an “us vs. them” mentality instead of a community centric approach to policing.
President Obama said in a statement responding to the shootings in Baton Rogue, that unity is a possible solution. “I said that that killer (in Dallas) would not be the last person who tries to make us turn on each other. Nor will today’s killer. It remains up to us to make sure that they fail. That decision is all of ours. The decision to make sure that our best selves are reflected across America, not our worst — that’s up to us.”
Carter has solutions based on his firsthand experience in the community as a leader, as a police officer and as a man of faith. Part 2 will discuss possible ways to end the violence and unite the community. Part 2 will appear in the August 9 issue.