I’ve spent years arguing for all things equality, but other than a mention of “America’s illnesses” in my previous blog post, I have said little publicly about George Floyd and the uprising that his murder sparked. Why? There was near-universal condemnation of the killing. Young people morphed into lil’ Malcolms, so I thought to myself, “Damn! Y’all got this!” And lastly, perhaps due to desensitization of extra-judicial murder, I underestimated what’s proven to be a transformative movement. If there was no change after police officers did a drive-by shooting on 12-year-old Tamir Rice, surely they could avoid retribution after suffocating a black man as he cried for his mother.
But having had a couple of weeks to reflect, I have some points to make about recent events.
1) I know white folks who have recently called out racist family members online, thereby sacrificing relationships. This is a good thing. We need more of that. You figure if the wokest white man of all time, John Brown, can lead a violent anti-slavery rebellion, your average white person can tell her ol’ ignorant aunt to shut the hell up.
2) Race relations are where they are due to white fear of demographic change. Antibellum: “Black savages” will violate white women. Jim Crow: Black will vote en masse and have too much political power. Today: The U.S. will soon be a majority-minority country. So let’s “build the wall,” ban Muslims, and reminisce of a time when America was “great” or at least less colored. Relax. We’re not going to treat you like you treated us.
3) It’d be nice to see Starbucks employees in Black Lives Matter gear, but if I agree that the serving of frappuccinos can be politicized, I would also have to be accepting of Starbucks staff in MAGA hats. I’ll pass. It’s inconsequential either way. What matters is if Starbucks has black folks in executive leadership and if its hourly employees are paid a living wage.
4) Crime in the black community is a real thing, and we are over-represented as victims and assailants of violent crime. There are reasons: over-policing, mistrust of police which decreases the number of criminals who are convicted, 400-plus years of oppression (we didn’t even have our rights “guaranteed” by the government until 1964), an outright racist justice system (research sentencing disparities), American gun culture, and lack of economic opportunity.
But typically when white folks mention this during a police brutality discussion, they don’t really give a shit about “black-on-black crime.” They want to score political points. Or else they would have already done something to reduce crime in black communities, or at least known that others are dedicated to this cause.
5) Viral videos of cops doing what they’re supposed to be doing are silly. You don’t get extra credit for that. Yes, there are good cops. I get that. But it’s like that Facebook friend who you know doesn’t see his kids. He finally takes the kids for a day, gets thirsty for likes, and starts hashtagging pictures #DadLife. Man, that’s your job!
6) How strange are these times? I have non-black childhood acquaintances who have made racially insensitive comments in the past. One even dropped the N-word (with the played out “er” ending) back in the day. Now they’re out here protesting. Part of me thinks “Nigga please!” but since I’ve become anti-cancel culture, I just give the side-eye.
7) A bit more about cancel culture…Everyone says dumb things. Ignorant statements are magnified if you’re a public person. Let’s use LL Cool J as an example. He caught flack for the tweet below.
Yeah, it was an odd, ill-timed question, but not mean-spirited or offensive. Plus, it’s LL! He gave us great music. He’s done a lot in the community. And most importantly, he purposely hid his gargantuan cranium for years, as to not scare his fans. But due to a tweet he was under cancel consideration. I felt terrible seeing him near tears in his Instagram response video. Dude was so upset that he didn’t lick his lips the entire time. Maybe we should all be more mindful of others’ actions and intentions, not only their ill-advised words. Especially when they’re allies.
8) Corporations expressing that Black Lives Matter is a nice gesture, but it would be more powerful if they shot me an email about a Vice-President of _______ job opportunity. I’m not the most diligent worker, but considering the mediocrity I’ve seen among corporate and national leaders, I should be running something besides this website.
9) Defund the police is a terribly misleading phrase, about as misleading as “death panels” was during Obamacare arguments. People who read headlines but not articles will run with this in opposition to what’s sound policy. This won’t fit on a meme, but let’s rephrase it as “Reallocating excessive police funding so they don’t buy tanks and stuff.”
10) I’m not into listicles. And I’m not going to come up with a tenth point just to have a nice whole number.
Well, 800 words later and I don’t have answers to solve racism. Ultimately, legal and political change will provide concrete progress and make bigotry less overt, but changing minds stained by generations of white supremacy will take time.
Until then, give black people the benefit of the doubt, even when supremacy makes you suspicious. Hell, give us a tenth of the benefit of the doubt that you give to Trump. Sexual assault allegations, disrespect of veterans, sham university, birtherism, housing discrimination…CORONAVIRUS! “Oh, he’s just misunderstood. You see, he’s not a politician…” Black man goes birdwatching. “Shit! Call 911!”
George Floyd should have made it home that day. Rayshard Brooks should have made it home that night. Breonna Taylor was already home and should have been able to see the next morning. Do better. We’ve seen what reluctance to change has done to this country.
*Note: I had a hard time deciding what picture to have on this post, so I went with one of me smiling. We need more pictures of black men smiling.