Righteous Indignation

I'm angry.  I'm angry because I see the hurt in the hearts of the black members of our community.  I'm angry because I see apathy from nearly all of the white members of the community.  I'm angry because only a handful of my white friends have even joined in the discussion about Ferguson or black rights or black lives, and nearly all of those who have joined in the conversation have not been empathetic toward black people, but have been critical of black people.

I have friends who post things making it seem like all of the protestors are rioting and looting--that the whole thing is a big mess of violence and crime.  This is so far from the truth.  It is extremely common for white people and even black people to be critical of the looters and vandals.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but all of those types of comments bothered me.  Then I saw something a black friend posted on Facebook which helped me understand his perspective on the matter.  If you truly do want a better society, instead of wanting to just point the finger of blame at someone other than yourself, then you will not simply dismiss all of the protestors--or even all of the looters--as irrelevant because there are those engaging in violent and criminal acts.  What you will do is try to understand the root cause of the problem and right that wrong.

Try to understand a black person's perspective.  I don't know what it's like to be black.  I never will.  But I can listen to black people when they try to express themselves and help me understand what it's like.  I can listen with compassion and empathy.  I do know what it's like to have my rights trampled by the majority.  I know what it's like to have my personal life voted on in ballot measures and bills.  So I have compassion for other oppressed minorities as well.

But try to understand how your words come across.  In a vacuum, the argument that protests should be non-violent and looting and vandalism shouldn't happen is a very logical argument.  Yes, it makes sense.  Yes, you have a point.  But before you start telling other people--especially oppressed and angry people--what to do, think about how your words will sound to the person you're saying them to/about.  You say "violence is violence.  All violence is wrong.  All crime is bad."  It sounds to you like you're just speaking common sense, perhaps.  It sounds like you're trying to be fair and equitable.  How does it come across to a black person who feels that the entire justice system is stacked against em?  I can't say for sure, but I can guess.  It might come across as "You don't have any right to complain.  Stop being angry that someone did something bad and was punished for it."  It most likely comes across as callused and unfeeling.  It probably sounds like you really don't want to hear about eir problems or that you feel like ey's being unreasonable.

The truth is that black people have lots of reason to complain.  They have lots of reason to be angry and outraged.  Does that justify the violent acts that some of the protestors commit?  No.  Also, remember, those committing violent and criminal acts comprise an extremely small percentage of the protestors.  By far the majority of protestors are peaceful.  Most of them want peaceful reconciliation.  Many of them even try to protect the local businesses from those who are looting and vandalizing.  However, while the actions may not be justified, there is reason for them.  Try to understand that there are valid reasons that black people have to be upset at the US justice system.  They aren't just irrational hysterical crazies trying to destroy America.  They're oppressed in real, measurable, calculable ways.  If you are unaware of the systematic racism in the US, use Google.  Educate yourself on the matter.  Learn about the statistics.  Learn about how black people are oppressed.

When I look at a class full of students, I am deeply saddened at the realization that statistically speaking 9 of them (out of 30) are going to be incarcerated at some point in their lives, simply because they are black men.  Not because they are more likely to commit violent crimes than white people, but because they are more likely to be arrested than white people.  They are more likely to receive harsh sentences.  They are more likely to be verbally abused--by officers of the law as well as civilians.  They are more likely to be physically abused.

I am mad about people who literally know nothing about the oppression of black people and go on and on about how unruly the protestors are, or how unreasonable the protest itself is, or how Wilson was justified in killing Brown, etc.  I'm mad that so many people are looking not for a solution to the problem but for every and any fault they can find in the black community.  I'm furious at people who perpetuate stereotypes about black people being lazy, not working, or being thugs.  I'm angry that people are so judgmental about people they don't even know and don't even make an effort to try to understand them.

I'm mad that so many white people are just going about their lives like nothing is different.  They aren't even mentioning anything about the protests.  They don't have to think about it because it doesn't affect them.  They don't have to worry about their children walking in the streets of their town because they're white. They don't have to worry about whether they'll be arrested for saying the wrong thing to a police officer.  They don't have to worry about it so they don't worry about it.  That is white privilege.

I'm not black.  I don't know what it's like to be black.  And most of my readers aren't black either, I assume.  If you're not black, try to understand what it's like.  Talk to black people. Read what black bloggers write.  Listen to what they have to say.  Think about things from their point of view rather than saying critical and judgmental things about them.  We can work together as a community to solve the problem of systematic racism, but not if we just cast stones at each other.  We can't do it unless we open our hearts and our ears.  Listen to the wounded.  Listen to the oppressed.  Listen to their complaints.  Ask them sincere questions to help you understand better.  Ask yourself what you would do in the same situation.  What would you do if a police officer had shot your son on his way home one day and then wasn't even put on trial for the killing?  How would you feel if you knew that everywhere you applied for work you were unlikely to be hired not because your credentials were any less impressive than the other candidates' but because your skin was a different color from the panel doing the interviews?