Please help

Dear white, well-off, suburban friends not particularly attentive to issues of social justice: I don’t know how better to say it than to simply ask. Please pay attention. Please engage. All of you who hear news from Charlottesville and say “OMG, I can’t believe this is happening in 2017“, I’m not asking you to completely burst your bubble, but maybe you could just compromise the seal, just a little. Why? Well, I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.

You like to think that if you were there when this picture was taken, you would have spoken up, right? You would have given Rosa Parks your seat on the bus, right? You wouldn’t have just sat there and watched, right? Well, thanks to the internet, we are all watching. We are all “there”. You actually have the opportunity to say “Hey, stop. I don’t like this”.

To whom? To any fellow white people who can hear you. Where? Doesn’t matter. Yes, it might feel quite awkward to work “gee, how ’bout that racism. . . ” into a conversation about your vacation, but it’s kind of urgent.

Woah, woah, woah, it’s not my fault/responsibility/problem, don’t tell me what I should or should not do. 

Okay, fine. But if you think you would have resisted slavery in America, or Nazis in Germany, and you say nothing now, think again. If you think you would have supported the civil rights movement back in the day, but you don’t now, make no mistake, you are the people who looked away and shuffled out of the Cherrydale Drug Fair when the boys pictured above came in.

That’s not fair. I’m not racist. This is different.

Really?  Yes, the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s helped to ban the formerly acceptable practice of straight up torturing and killing Black men, women, and children at will. White people were persuaded to stop randomly and spontaneously beating, mutilating, burning and hanging Black people from trees. Emmet Till was lynched in nineteen fifty fucking five. He would only be 75 today if he were alive. So, yeah, we frown on wild packs of angry white men randomly murdering children now. Congratulations to us on that amazing progress.

We are now collectively shocked and shamed by the lunch counter sit-in photos. Look how much progress we’ve made. We want credit for allowing people into public spaces? Seriously, how far we’ve come from WHAT? How low is our bar? How absurd a standard of measurement? Congratulations white America on the improvement of “race relations”. Oh yeah, wait, you, as a whole, didn’t do shit. Congratulations on giving in to demands when they got too in your face to ignore anymore.

Freedom Riders, Selma, MLK, all the greatest hits iconic protests and civil disobedience we all know and honor and admire and respect and praise now. You know what they were saying? Black Lives Matter. Would you have complained that a theoretical ambulance wouldn’t have been able to get across the Edmund Petus bridge? Would you have been saying that the protesters would have a lot more support and sympathy if they didn’t cause economic harm to the public transportation system in Montgomery?

No? Then shut the fuck up when people actually doing something to be the change interrupt your regularly scheduled privilege. Or better yet, show up.

When the President of the United States was forced to condemn the white supremacist side of the “many sides”, his insincerity was palpable. My bad, No worries, Nice to meet you. All more sincere expressions than Donald Trump saying “Racism is evil . . . we all live under the same laws”.

Black men today have a 33% (or 25% depending on who you believe, but either way, WTF) chance of going to a (for profit) prison, as opposed to a white man’s 6% chance.  There are more Black men in prison/probation/parole than there were slaves in 1850. 10% longer sentence than a white man convicted for the same crime. They are 12% of drug users and 59% of people in state prison for a drug offense. Black students get suspended and expelled at almost 4 times the rate of white kids. Schools are as segregated as 1968. White sounding resume names get called for interviews 33% more than Black sounding names on the SAME RESUME. Black children are 4 times more likely to be poor than white children.  Racism is a pervasive, constant, institutionalized, systematic, non-stop thing in America, in ways you may never have considered, and you directly benefit from it. Like it or not.

So yeah, we’ve made progress from the randomly murderous with loud proud impunity days. No, excuse me, the people who push and resist and advocate, and fight fight fight for progress have made progress. We, white people in ‘Murcia in general, have allowed this progress to happen with embarrassing and shameful delay and indifference.

I am speaking to you, my white, wealthy American friend who hates the news. Who finds it all too scary and too depressing to contemplate. In enclaves where all of this is just not a thing one needs to think about. The enclaves that were deliberately created to exclude Black people, by the way, in case you’ve ever wondered why your neighborhood happens to be so white.

But sometimes, like now, news of racism penetrates and floods your feed and your tv. And for a day or two you are forced to hear about the latest unarmed Black man shot. And the resulting protests. And you can change the channel. Or not click on it.

Because. . . he shoplifted, or ran away, or looked older, or could have looked like someone else. . . 

Or whatever you tell yourself to help you believe that this is not really real. Or that it’s too complicated, and ALL lives matter, or whatever your personal short-cut way out is.

But the same white Nationalist  supremacists  from the Charlotteville Unite-the-Right rally are coming to rally in Boston on Saturday. They are not coming to protest economic conditions that have resulted in the loss of their jobs and security. They are not coming to protest housing/healthcare/education policies that have left them feeling left out. They are Neo-fucking-Nazis and people who believe that a white genocide is underway.  This is a pretty easy one, folks. If you can’t come out clearly on one side or another here, that’s something you should know about yourself.

I realize that you may be put-off because you think I’m saying that if you don’t protest then you are racist. No, this is not about you. It’s about us as a whole. But I am asking you as an individual to do ANYTHING other than just look away. I’m sorry I don’t have more time to put it more gently or nicely. I’m more concerned about the feelings of my Black friends who have to go through this shit over and over and over again, watch us do nothing, and then get called racist for calling out racism.

Carry on.

Or not.

 

Hook versus verse

Our first post-holidays national holiday came and went as expected. Except for that part when the President, having devoted exactly zero minutes of service to any cause other than self promotion, called a man who has given his life, his body, his liberty (45 times), to the struggle, “all talk.” I did not see that coming. But the rest of the weekend was predictable. Some white people I know, people who give zero fucks about racial/social justice 364 days per year, even people who go so far as to utter All Lives Matter type rhetoric in comments, posted rainbow and unicorny as hell excerpts of quotes and photos about peace and love and following the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What’s my problem? To paraphrase one of my current favorite fictional figures, Andre Johnson Jr., It’s like the hook without the verse.

MLK is not the good guy to be juxtaposed against Black Lives Matter or the Movement for Black Lives or Colin Kapernick or anyone else you want to blame for currently inflaming racial tension in America.  This whitewashed idea that he worked for change the right way, while the people on the front lines in the fight against racism today are doing it wrong, is just remarkably insane.

MLK railed against police brutality and undereducation and overpolicing and systematic, institutionalized income inequality. He vehemently protested against the condemnation of rioters by people who were not outraged by the roots and causes of the riots. He was accused of inciting violence. He was criminalized. In response to the Dream Speech, the head of the blue FBI lives called him “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of . . . national security.” And he was widely condemned by people who claimed not to be racist – they just didn’t approve of his disruptive tactics and the urgency of now.

You got a problem with Colin Kapernick? You got a problem with MLK. You know what he was locked up for when he wrote the letter from Birmingham jail? Kneeling down in a space where protesting was not allowed. Responding to “supporters” who agreed with his goals but not his tactics, he wrote “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront an issue.”

You know what else he said? “There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But… when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.. . . There is a fire raging now for the Negroes and the poor of this society. . .” And he called for “massive civil disobedience. . . at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full.”

When Dr. King was assassinated, Governor Ronald Regan called it a “great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order, and people started choosing which laws they’d break.”

Basically, he asked for it.

You know what “law and order” looked like in MLK’s day? It looked like those black and white movie clips we watch now in disbelief and discomfort and emotionally distance ourselves from by thinking those were the olden days. It looked like those Black bodies we now collectively accept as brave and valiant getting knocked off their feet by water cannons and attacked by German Shepards. Order without justice still looks like tanks and tear gas.

We have a law and order president now who does not believe in systematic racism, and cannot utter one word about criminal justice reform, except to say that there is [implied “Black on Black” as if that’s a thing] “carnage” in Black America’s streets. And he will restore order.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be an 88 year old man today with a ton of work left to do. So I’m glad you choose love over hate because hate is too big a burden. Congrats on that amazing work. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you like the dream of little white children holding hands with little Black children.

Now wake the fuck up and get ready for the nightmare of a law and order administration that erroneously thinks that civil disobedience = a war on police. Who promises to bring order without justice. You want that dream? Educate yourself on what the Movement for Black Lives really means and stands for. Share that dream.