Or Here’s Why You Should Shut Up
Dear Oblivious Caucasia:
You woke up to the news of another black person being murdered by the police. You woke up to a sea of hurt, outrage, and arguing. You woke up to another hashtag. You woke up once again thrust into a world that you may well never have to deal with solely because of your whiteness. You woke up to discussions of police brutality, white privilege, and why #BlackLivesMatter. The world around you is in a tizzy and you don’t completely “get it.” As the day wears on, your tolerance of the topic may wear thin – because you’re a good white person. You’ve had nothing but great encounters with the police. And sure, some of them may be bad, but not all. And don’t all lives matter? And oh yeah, what about black on black crime? It’s gone too far. Someone has to speak out. You are ready to be the hero. Dear White Person, I implore you:
Some may cite statistics about how black people are disproportionately affected by confrontations with police. Others might point out the numerous incidents of actual murderers and attempted murderers (who just happened to be white) who were coddled while in police custody. Another person might mention how the all lives matter crowd only seems to raise its head to shout down #BlackLives Matter, but have barely whispered the name Dylan Noble, murdered by Fresno police while on the ground. Still others might point out that not only is intraracial violence common among all racial groups – not only black people – but it differs because once apprehended those perpetrators are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (hello disproportionate sentences handed down for black people). But I’m not going to do that. I am not here to “incite dialog.” I’m here to
I want you to be quiet, because now it’s your time to listen and acknowledge that maybe this racism jazz has gotten a little out of control. It’s your time to recognize that there are things that you will never have to face as a white person, and black people don’t need your advice on how to stay alive in confrontations with the police. It’s your time to realize that if you can see this endless stream of black bodies murdered by the people ostensibly sworn to protect them – often for the most arbitrary reasons – and not feel outrage, then you are on the wrong side. The police operate under the same rules as the gangs and mobs they fight against. You don’t speak against the family. You don’t snitch. The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest and most fearsome organized gang in the United States of America.
Be quiet, because it is the decent thing to do when people are hurting and you don’t know what to say. And while I understand that talks of white privilege may cause you to feel guilty and indicted, YOU must understand that this is not the time to play “What about my feelings?” In less than 24 hours two black men – Alton Sterling pinned to the ground, Philando Castile in compliance with police – were murdered. One of them was shot in front of his four-year old daughter. The flood of images of black people being murdered by agents of the state is played and replayed on the news until we choke on it, because in 2016, black pain is theater and we are going to discuss that shit. THEREFORE WE CANNOT WORRY ABOUT HURTING YOUR WHITE FEELINGS TODAY. So before you bring them up
Before you feel the need to let us know that you are a good white person, as though our problem is with individual white people and not a centuries old system established to oppress the people who built it
Before you passive aggressively ask “Don’t all lives matter?” while completely ignoring the centuries of actions and countless hashtags chronicling murdered black people in the past two years alone
Before you see an entire race of people in pain and anguish, expressing simply that we don’t want to have to fear being killed in the streets for our blackness and part your silly ass lips to say “Well…you’re the real racist”
My goal is not to “win you over to my side.” I’ve learned that right-minded people don’t need extensive convincing to see what has gone terribly wrong. People of all races who truly want justice don’t need Alton Sterling’s twitching body played ad infinitum on the news for his child to see. They don’t need pleas. No one is born aware of the needs of people outside of the groups with which they identify, so you’re not expected to get it all at once. It takes time and patience on both sides. But the onus is not on black people to address oppression with niceness. We are not your tour guides. So, when you don’t know, or don’t understand, just do yourself a favor: listen and
Because black people do not have time to coddle you in your gossamer blanket of Caucasian oblivion today.