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Photo: Sterling Brown (Instagram)
The People is our section for opinions on all things concerning Black Chicago. In this piece, Josh McGhee reflects on the recently-released police video showing Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown being tased by the police on Jan. 26.

As irrelevant as Kanye West’s lyrics seem currently, there were one (or two) from his archives that rang harrowingly true last week.

“Even if you in a Benz, you still a nigga in a coupe,” Kanye rapped on The College Dropout’s “All Falls Down” in 2004, a time when Mr. West was still heralded as the ground-breaking beatsmith behind Jay-Z’s 2001 classic, The Blueprint, but working incessantly to blaze his own path to stardom.

As a preteen growing up in Tinley Park, the entirety of Kanye’s words didn’t hit me. But last week, as I watched the video of Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown confronted by a gang of cops, Kanye’s sermon hit me like a solid screen.

To be fair, Brown did “parallel double-parked that motherf***** sideways,” parking his Mercedes Benz across multiple handicap spaces in an empty Walgreens parking lot about 2 AM on a  January morning in Milwaukee. But that’s cause for a parking ticket that could’ve been left on his windshield wiper, not what ensued.

Instead, police body-cam video of the incident, which was released on May 23, plays out like the nightmare myself and many other Black men and women had after a parent gave us “The Talk” about the inescapable threats to our black body.

Photo: Milwaukee Police Department

In the video, the situation escalates from one Milwaukee cop to a gang of cops, surrounding Brown, a 23-year-old native of the Chicago western suburb, Maywood, and ends with Brown facedown and tased.

“I gave in so they didn’t pull out their guns,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

I feel this on so many levels, man. And I hate it.

I’ve stood in that parking lot. Literally, but also metaphorically.

Begrudgingly, we have to consider that if Brown wasn’t as calm as he appeared, the scene could’ve ended with death – like one of the hundreds of videos of interactions between police officers and Black men that we’ve seen. Maybe, if Brown’s father wasn’t a police officer, he would’ve demanded a parking ticket.

“I’ve had encounters with cops being polite and far on the other end. I don’t know if they had a bad day or what it was, but I’ve experienced it all,” he told the Sentinel. “But it never escalated like this did.”

This time, Brown ended up face down on the pavement for the world to see.

We can go through the “what if black men did this” scenarios all day, but what I found particularly interesting was no matter what Brown did to not be seen as just another N-word, how inevitable it was.

As a teenager, I prayed for Brown’s frame – 6-foot-6, a healthy 230 pounds and a nice wingspan. I’m not saying my mediocre, at best, high-school career would’ve propelled me to the NBA, but I can say that the blessing wouldn’t have hurt.

In hindsight though, look at that tremendous weight.

While I didn’t have the stature, I did subscribe to behaviors that, I believed, would keep me from being perceived as “just another N-word.” I was an athlete and an honor-roll student. I can count on my right hand how many times being a smart Black man has kept me out of jail.

Brown’s stature helped him achieve his dreams. His stature is helping the city of Milwaukee and their Bucks rebrand itself. His stature should’ve made him recognizable as a Buck to any of the half-a-dozen police officers surrounding him as the electric currents from the cop’s taser pulsed through his body

Brown’s stature still wasn’t recognizable until after he was booked for his parking violation and moved to a jail cell by himself and allowed to pay his own bail.

Then in what has to be one of the most familiar yet difficult situations, Brown put his head down and got back to ballin’. Sleep deprived, with a battered face, the rookie pulled in a career high in rebounds in 27 minutes during the home game hours later.

Though Brown told reporters his bruises were from a “personal issue,” they’re a haunting reminder that the stature of an NBA player isn’t even enough armor to save the Black body.

Josh McGhee is a producer at WVON and an independent journalist specializing in features and opinion pieces. He formerly worked for DNAinfo Chicago, where he covered local news on the North Side.