According to a Pew Research survey, only 37% of white Americans think the events in #Ferguson raise important issues about race.
Okay, fellow white people. We need to talk.
Let me tell you a story: I was an angry punk teenager. Not violent, but I did a shitton of trespassing, and I got into a lot of screaming matches with cops.
I have never been arrested.
I have never been violently attacked by police. Hell, I have never been seriously threatened by police.
I am fully aware that I’ve survived to adulthood largely on the benefits of my race.
When you are white in America, you get away with all sorts of shit. Have you read this account from a white dude who actively tried to get himself arrested? You should. It’s telling.
So, if that’s your main frame of reference for dealing with law enforcement, it is really easy to assume that when someone else gets targeted by the police, they must have done something really bad. After all, you know the police aren’t that petty, right? They’re there to help: That’s what TV tells you, what your teachers told you, what your parents told you. “If you’re in trouble, find a police officer. They’ll help.” And, y’know, if you’re white, most of the time, that’s probably true.
When you’re white in America, it is awfully easy to pretend that you don’t live in a country where the nonviolent physical presence of black people, especially black men, is considered sufficient threat to justify use of lethal force. It’s really easy to pretend that laws are enforced equally; that arrest rate has any demographic resemblance to actual crime rates; that the police are there to protect us from the bad guys.
And, I mean, I get that. It’s a lot more comfortable to pretend that safety correlates to virtue than to confront the ugly truth that a system that benefits you very directly does so at the cost of other people’s lives; that what you were taught was the just reward for being a good person is, in fact, the privilege of your skin. That’s a big part of why we work so hard to retcon narratives about how the black people our police murder must have been dangerous, highlight every casual infraction like it’s a killing spree. We are so desperate to believe that the system that feeds us is just.
It doesn’t feel good to acknowledge that stuff. It feels gross. A system we trusted—one we should be able to trust, that should work for the benefit and protection of everyone has made us accomplice to some deeply horrifying shit.
But here’s the thing:
This happened. This is happening. Not recognizing it; stonewalling and insulating ourselves in our little bubbles does not make it go away.
And not acknowledging it, not having asked for it, does not make us any less complicit, or any less responsible for owning and fixing this. We are actively benefitting from a fucked, corrupt, murderous system. That is on us. As it should be.
So educate yourself, get the tools, and start dismantling this fucker. You have the time: after all, no one’s shooting at your kids.
Privilege is the bandwidth to speak up and dismantle because you’re not in fear for your life. And there is no conscionable excuse for failing to use it.