Gather ‘round, folks. We need to have a chat.
I know I’ve been talking a lot about #Ferguson lately, but it deserves the attention. I’m sorry if that makes some people uncomfortable, which is sort of a lie. I’m not really “sorry” in the truest sense. It really should make some people uncomfortable. Actually, the whole discussion should make them squirm in their seats, and hopefully realize they’re doing the entire Be A Human thing wrong.
During the last few days, I’ve written about the tragedy that is unfolding in a St. Louis suburb, and I’ve read a plethora of articles, news reports, opinion pieces, and the like. Whilst reading electronically published pieces, I always take the time to scroll through the comments. What people are thinking and saying about issues means a great deal to me. It’s the equivalent of surveying the land before stepping into unknown territory. I need more than one thought about a situation. It helps me orient myself to some of the raw emotions surrounding an issue.
In any case, as I’ve read through many an online discussion concerning the shooting death of Michael Brown at the hands of a law enforcement officer, there are a couple remarks that make my head spin—Exorcist style. Let’s just address these individually.
1) “What about reverse racism?”
This one belongs in the racism denial hall of fame. There always has to be one person who says they’ve been treated poorly by someone of color. You know what? Sometimes folks just treat each other like shit. Maybe someone has been conditioned to distrust white folks. Maybe their anger just runs that deep. Whatever it is, this mistreatment does not count as “racism”. Racism is keeping people in chains, buying and selling them like chattel, raping them, controlling their economic situations, discriminating against them—whether blatantly or slyly, and profiling them. Racism has multigenerational effects. We’ve gone from chains to jail cells, but racism exists—and this is important,for people of color and nationalities other than American. White people have not had that experience within the United States.
2) “Why can’t I be proud to be white?”
Do you really need to be proud over something you had no control over? Let me break this down: Your parents had sex. Some cells joined together, randomly forming a fertilized egg. Magical DNA shit happened. Then voila—you were born. Nothing more luck of the draw ever happens in your life. Your parents could have been anyone of any nationality and ethnic background. Maybe you should just realize how stupid it sounds to say “Proud to be white”. Should I be proud to have green eyes? That’s pretty ridiculous. I’m proud of my accomplishments or my children, not something biology took care of. I guess I should also say nationalism is equally as ignorant. It was luck of the draw you were born in whatever country, too. There’s a massive difference between embracing cultural practices and customs and sharing those with others and being “proud”. Proud of randomness is just weird and completely divisive.
Also, no one has ever told you that being white is bad. You’ve never been told to assimilate or that the closer you look to white, the more attractive and trustworthy you are. By the way, the latter is called colorism, and it happens in the African American communities because old white slave owners raped black women. Did you read that? They raped them. Then the lighter skinned slaves were treated slightly better than the darker skinned, causing a social divide within an ethnicity. Thanks, assholes, for projecting your whiteness by socially unacceptable means, only causing a group of people to think if they were white, the world would love them more. If I was them, I’d be damn proud I was able to keep my ethnic identity and culture alive, too.
3) “Yeah, but that kid was committing a crime”
I don’t care what in the hell that kid (who, by the way was named Mr. Michael Brown not “that kid”) was doing. He wasn’t in the process of killing someone. Deadly force was overkill. No matter how you break this down, there was a policeman who in the best case got scared and overreacted. In the worst case, he’s an animal. Either way, he has no support from me. All I can feel is empathy and sorrow for a family and community that is suffering a tragic loss of life.
4) “What was he wearing? Did he look suspicious?”
If I never hear these questions again it will be too soon. Let me just get one thing straight: I have walked into a store wearing a ripped up pair of jeans, a baggy hoodie, a hat, and sunglasses. I looked shady as fuck. No one ever questioned me or even so much as looked at me funny.
I’ve seen white kids in my community wearing sock hats and hoodies with their bagging, sagging shorts in 100 degree weather. If that isn’t suspicious, then neither is anything any kid who isn’t white could wear, and the cops don’t bug these white kids (at least not here).
Profiling someone by what they wear is the same as saying a woman is guilty for her own rape because her skirt was too short. Don’t come at me with this argument. It holds no merit. It’s like we look for reasons to victim blame here. Are we trying to create criminals?
If I had the first twenty years of my adult life to do over again, I would become a public defender specifically defending folks just like the young African American men and women who are judged in the street every day.
One of the problems we face is that the first stop in the Road of Justice is what a police officer thinks someone did. If cops were always right, courts wouldn’t exist. Problem is, even those trained and sworn to not only uphold the law, but to protect and serve make mistakes. Moreover, and infinitely worse, police officers are still human beings with individual thoughts and biases. Sometimes that variable leads to the death of young men such as Michael Brown. Other times those biases lead our most vulnerable to a path of incarceration.
Our prisons are full of not only cold blooded criminals, but the mentally ill, the indigent, and people of color. Because, even though many people of color have attained and overcome obstacles, many others are still fighting income and education inequality leaving them in difficult circumstances and the lower socioeconomic rungs. They are often targeted by law enforcement because society has been taught to fear anyone poor or of darker skin tone.If you live in a poor neighborhood and you’re African American, for instance, you’re automatically the suspect. Without the resources to pay quality attorneys, they often face accepting plea agreements, which in turn leave them labeled as “felon,” one of the groups in our society which it is still acceptable to discriminate against. It’s the new way to keep those our society deems unacceptable locked away and under white control.
I only wish I could do more to change that dynamic. My only weapon is my words. My only hope is that someone reads what I say and helps me change the world.
If you’re interested in this subject, check back for a forthcoming article about growing up in a community sans ethnic diversity, and the racism I’ve witnessed all my life. I’ll talk about how it formed the way I think, why I’m not a racist, what I believe is at the root of racism, and how the new paramilitary police forces and some media outlets perpetuate it.