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.