Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Problem with Denial

In the wake of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri and subsequent protests demanding answers for the death of the unarmed teen, it is painfully obvious that much of America is still in denial about systemic racism in this country, the role that racism plays in societal dynamics, and how much damage is done by that denial.

I have, like everyone else, had Facebook and Twitter feeds that have been so often full of opinions on the matter of Michael Brown’s death. Many people feel it was unwarranted and have made solid judgments about the force used by this particular police officer. Many have felt the need to scorn the reactions (labeled riots and looting) by some community members (a very small segment of the population) afterwards as if being a White person in Georgia or Pennsylvania or Oregon suddenly gives us direct insight into what it’s like to be a minority in a place like Ferguson. Reading a few news articles is the equivalent of miraculously pulling an Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd style Trading Places bit, right? And then there are still others who have spoken out against “black culture, fatherless homes in the black community, erosion of the family, thug culture” or have outright blamed Micheal Brown from making conjectures about his behavior that day to sharing pictures of the wrong kid to prove a point to talking about Brown’s alleged marijuana use as if any of these somehow excuses what Officer Darren Wilson did that fateful afternoon of August 9, 2014.

No matter what your stance on the death of Michael Brown, the thing that all these talking points and opinions have in common is the blatant skirting of the issue of systemic racism and how that is so intertwined with this issue that there is no way to separate the two.

Nearly every time I mention the fact that systemic racism exists and allows a position of privilege for White people, I get told by someone at some point that he or she will absolutely not apologize for being White and that it has been hundreds of years since slavery existed so people should just get over it by now instead of expecting White people to keep on apologizing for things they didn’t personally do.

Everything about this is wrong. Every. Single. Thing.

I made a Facebook status recently about the whole White apology thing that I’d like to reshare here. No one is asking for any White person to apologize for being born White just like Feminists aren’t asking for men to apologize for having been born with dicks. If you were in a cafeteria and noticed that the person next to you received 25% less food for the same price you paid and that everyone in the room that looked different than you, a small group, had the same problem, no one would ask you to stand up and apologize for what you were given. You aren’t in control of that. But, it would be fucking nice if you asked management, “why does this keep happening?” By showing your solidarity and admitting that you see the same issues as the people claiming that they have less than you, you actually bring the problem to light so that it can be fixed. When you represent the majority group, when most people in positions of power look like you, it takes your voice and your input to help level the playing field for all human beings.

To deny the existence of systemic racism when you’re in the dominant group keeps disparities happening and stalls progress.

Post-racial America isn’t post racial. In the past several years, the country cannot go even a few months without a black male being shot, erroneously, by police. That’s not to say that it is only black males. It’s not. Women of all races are getting raped by police and the poor are repetitively targeted. But the chances that you’ll be shot by police or even arrested for ACTUALLY committing a crime when you’re a financially sound White male are very slim. Meanwhile, Black guys are shot for looking at air rifles TO BUY in Wal-Mart. They’re stopped on the street and frisked for being Black because racial profiling continues to be allowed and continues to be considered good policy. In fact, in NYC where minorities (combined) make up around half the population, those minorities make up 80% of the stops police make. Of all the frisk searches conducted during these stops, only 8% happen to Whites. Check out this study by the ACLU, for example, that shows Black people are more than 3 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana even though both Whites and Blacks use the substance at approximately the same rate. The numbers are out there. It may be easier to ignore them, but the facts are painfully clear when you take the time to research them.

When it comes to looking at the numbers in black and white, no pun intended, of who police are killing more often, it is almost impossible to determine. The FBI crime statistics are reported on a voluntary basis and are not examined in any way. There’s no way to incorporate data for police shootings that aren’t deemed “justifiable” homicides in which the police officer was determined to have used an appropriate amount of force, and the numbers of justifiable homicides only concern felons. But, when this data is examined, it shows a telling pattern. When the reasons for shooting a “felon” are less clear, the likelihood of the felon being Black is far disproportional to the Black population. It’s a scary thought…that being Black makes you a target for people who are supposed to serve and protect.

So, regardless of what you believe about the culpability of Michael Brown as we await the results of an investigation on the matter, the real point is this—the situation never would have escalated this far if Michael Brown had been White. Had he been White, the officer in question never would have told him to get the fuck back on the side walk and act with aggression the way Officer Wilson was said to have acted. There never would have been a situation where there was any kind of struggle through the window of that police cruiser. There never would have been a situation where a kid was gun down with his hands up in the middle of the street if he had been White.

The denial so many in this nation have about that is preventing this country from moving forward, and I, for one, am tired of regressing towards Jim Crow days…

And, as with every Sunday, this has been part of Sunday Confessions with More than Cheese and Beer. Check out the other link ups today. I imagine some of them will be far less political than mine. ha. Most of us need a break from it, so be sure to give them a read and check out her Facebook page for anonymous confessions! 

1 comment:

  1. Too many people are in denial about realities of our society. They find it easier to deny that we live within a system that targets certain groups of people than choosing to stand up for fellow citizens and demand justice on their behalf.

    And the people who do stand up, protest, speak out are often criticized, mocked or critics attempt to devalue their points and valid concerns or issues.

    But there are people who simply won't shut up, that still bring attention to where people try to avert their gazes, people who dare to be loud, and angry and demand someone see the injustice, the systematic devaluation of peoples lives and who try with all their might to fix a broken society.

    Or fight to get people to even acknowledge it.

    Thank you Jenniy for being one of those people who doesn't shut up, who brings awareness to travesties and events society likes to sweep under the rug.

    Great piece.