Dear White People…

I get it. It’s hard for you to understand where they’re coming from. You think they’re overreacting. You’re tired of them assuming everything is about race. You see authority as mostly good, rules as mostly good, the status quo as mostly good… because for you, they’ve been mostly good. Your life experience validates your beliefs (or vice versa). Perception is reality. Our experience shapes our world view. So I get it. You don’t understand why they’re still so angry. You don’t understand it because you haven’t lived it. And if you haven’t lived it, you assume other people haven’t either. But your assumption is wrong.

You assume that it’s just as easy for someone with an “ethnic” sounding name to be called in for a job interview. It doesn’t seem fair to admit that there could be deep-seated bias in people who don’t even recognize it within themselves, so you justify their behavior by thinking those job candidates just must not be as qualified, even though countless blind studies prove otherwise. You assume it’s just as easy for a person of color to get a home loan, get an apartment application approved, find a decent, safe neighborhood for their kids to grow up in. It’s too shocking to think that someone could be denied a place to live solely because of their race, so you decide it must be that their credit isn’t that great or their references must have not pulled through for them. You see upwardly mobile Black families in your community, and so you think these issues don’t exist, not realizing that even your Harvard professor neighbor, in your upper middle class neighborhood is not immune to racial profiling.

You assume that if someone is approached by police it must be because they’re doing something wrong because police have never approached, harassed or interrogated you unjustifiably. And so you justify the disproportionate numbers of interactions between police and people of color by attributing fault to the citizen, even though crime statistics categorized by race tell a different story. You hear ghastly statistics of the demographics of our prison population and can’t bear the thought that something could be devastatingly broken with our judicial system, that sentencing is subjective, that black juveniles are significantly more likely than whites to be tried as adults with harsher punishments for the exact same crimes. And so, to make yourself feel better, you justify these numbers with the argument that their culture celebrates violence, their history dictates their criminality, and every problem would go away if they’d just stop breaking the law.

The problem, white people, is not that Black people are overreacting. The problem is that our experience is not the same as the experience of those who don’t look like us and you’re failing to recognize this truth: Our reality is not the same as theirs. You think, “How could that be? How could someone treat them any differently than they treat me?” And the answer is just that – you see “them” as different from you. We tend to give more grace to our family than to strangers. We fear what we don’t know. And most of us don’t truly know enough people who don’t look like us. The reality is we will never fully understand the Black experience because we haven’t lived it. The good news is, we don’t have to understand to empathize. The good news is, we don’t have to understand to empathize. THE GOOD NEWS IS, WE DON’T HAVE TO UNDERSTAND TO EMPATHIZE. Empathize. Empathize. Empathize. Don’t try to understand. You and I never will. Just. Try. To. EMPATHIZE.

What you’re missing here, white people, and why you’re seeing messages of disdain, hurt, anger & resentment splayed all over your timelines is that the very benefit of the doubt you want to give these officers should actually be given to the people they’re killing. Our laws say we are to be treated as “innocent until proven guilty“. Until we change the laws, citizens are supposed to be presumed innocent regardless of color, gender, class, background, beliefs, or what we assume they have or have not done. It’s what our Constitution was built on. And yet, it’s not the truth for much of our population. Since the birth of our nation, the people we forced here were not even considered fully human (Literally, they were labeled as property and 3/5 of a human being in the Constitution). 200 years later, and Black people are still approached and treated with less dignity and more fear than people with different skin. (The officers who killed Alton Sterling called him “boy” before they took his life. If you don’t understand why that matters, pleaser refer back to MLK.) The reason that we are seeing a new civil rights movement unfold before our eyes is not just because sworn public servants have harassed, abused, and killed Black citizens at disproportionate rates. It’s because too often, no one is held accountable or responsible for doing so. That is why Black people are asking for their lives to matter.

“Well what about the Black cops?” This situation isn’t about good cop, bad cop, Black cop, white cop. It’s systemic. It’s about the institution they’re a part of. Plenty of cops have spoken out about the problems within their forces. Our prisons are privatized money making operations. There is a vested interest to keep them full. Law enforcement often dehumanizes civilians, and time and time again we see people of color on the short end of that stick. Why? Separation, detachment, FEAR. Police officers have a hard job. It’s easier to do when you don’t see other people as people. It’s a biological response of “us vs. them”. And just like biology creates dichotomies, fear triggers an automatic fight or flight response. The police are faced with a choice to fight or flee in the face of fear, and our judicial system has given them the green light to fight.  The ratio of Blacks to whites in our country is 1:5. The ratio of Black people to white people killed by police is 2:1. And unarmed white people are less likely to be killed than unarmed Black people. Why do white people walk away from these situations with their lives still intact? Sorry to break it to you, white people, but it’s not because we’re just more upstanding citizens. It’s because more often than not, law enforcement walks into interactions with people of color with the presumption of criminality, while they primarily walk into interactions with white people with the presumption of innocence, even when they don’t realize they’re doing so. The interaction is different before the first word is even spoken. How do we know that? Because almost all of us do it. 

“Well what about Black on Black crime?” That argument is a moot point. What about white on white crime? 84% of white people are killed by other white people. It can be assumed then that violent crime amongst a given race has more to do with environment and access than race… and has zero to do with paid public servants treating different groups of people differently. We all know that violent crime is more prevalent in the inner city than it is in the suburbs. But to jump to this argument as a means of justifying cops killing Black people is apathetic at best and shamefully racist at worst. The question you should ask yourself the next time you’re tempted to use the “Black on Black crime” argument to justify law enforcement’s excessive use of force is, “Did the people responsible for the crime receive punishment? Was there even a charge brought against the perpetrators?” Find the answers to those questions and then maybe you’ll start to understand the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement. By the way, if you’re so concerned about Black on Black crime, what are YOU doing to help make a difference? Nothing? Then stop bringing it up as justification for your apathy.

“Martin Luther King would be rolling in his grave if he saw the Black Lives Matter movement”. You’re wrong. Just plain wrong. Learn some history outside of what our 8th grade whitewashed textbooks taught us. This comment is so ridiculous, I won’t even explain all the reasons you’re wrong because it’s already been written. Educate yourself.

“Well why don’t Black people work on bettering their own community and take ‘personal responsibility’?” Another moot point. While all of us bettering our communities is indeed important, it also has nothing to do with paid public servants treating people of color differently. It’s irrelevant to the topic at hand, and bringing it up when we’re talking about disproportionate numbers of Black people killed at the hands of law enforcement is an attempt to minimize the real issue. But if we want some facts, the Black community IS working to better their own community just as much if not more than other communities. In fact, the Black community is the most charitable racial community in the country. There are THIRTY organizations in Chicago alone, most of which were started by people within the community who are directly affected by the issues they’re facing, trying to make a difference and address inner city violence. Countless resources and organizations are out there. They just don’t make the five o’clock news.

And personal responsibility? Really? Every human being I’ve ever encountered in life (of every race) has at one point or another blamed someone else for something they should’ve taken personal responsibility for, myself included. That’s why programs like Landmark and MITT exist. It’s why the “self-help” industry is a billion dollar industry. It’s why I have a job – coaching people to take personal responsibility for their lives and their successes and their failures. We ALL lack personal accountability. This isn’t a disease unique to the Black community. Blame is a universally human response. But let’s just play along for the sake of argument. All the Black people I know do take personal responsibility for their own lives. It’s a common practice in the Black community to educate their kids about how to interact in police encounters, including being overly respectful so that they come back home alive. It’s so common in fact it has a name: “The talk“. It’s a common saying in the Black community that, “You have to work twice as hard to get half as far.” In other words, they literally teach their children to outwork everyone else.

Now to the more important question: Why is it every Black person’s responsibility to speak and act on behalf of an entire race of people? Do you take personal responsibility for the nineteen million white people on long-term government assistance? Did you even know that nineteen million white people were on government assistance? Do you take personal responsibility for all the white people in our country who’ve committed atrocious acts of violence? If not, why do you expect all Black people to take personal responsibility for all other Black people? I’m sure they would LOVE if they all could be treated by the content of their individual character, by their personal achievements. But, in general, we treat them as one homogenous group. Why do we expect to be judged by our personal character and achievements, but don’t grant the same grace to other people?

We have to stop criminalizing victims, white people. I know it makes us uncomfortable to think an innocent person could be gunned down with less regard than the gorilla in the Cincinnati zoo, but it’s the ugly truth. We have to stop with the immediate assumptions that these people did anything you or I wouldn’t have done in a similar situation. We have to stop looking for reasons to blame people for their own deaths. He had a past criminal record (Totally irrelevant. You smoked weed in college and that was illegal too. You just didn’t get a record for it. Or maybe you did. You’re still alive). He had a weapon on him (A week ago you were screaming about protecting “our” second amendment rights. Exactly who is the “our” you were talking about?). He shouldn’t have been resisting arrest (Legally we are supposed to have rights. You can’t just be arrested to be arrested. All arrests are supposed to have probable cause. And have you ever been tackled? Your body doesn’t go limp. It tightens up. It’s science). He should have just complied (Philando Castile tried that so what else you got?). Becoming a police officer should not make you immune to the laws of this country. You should not get to use a position you are entrusted with as a means to intimidate, harass, bully, attack, threaten or in any other way treat citizens as if they’re servants, slaves or animals.

Imagine a scenario with me for a moment, white people… What if for the last couple centuries, a disproportionate number of white college frat boys were killed by police for legitimate criminal behavior (smoking weed, selling their mom’s prescription pills, public intoxication, minors in possession of alcohol, sexual assault, etc). We wouldn’t say, “Oh well those boys were drunk and rowdy and breaking the law. They should have behaved and they’d still be alive.” We’d be outraged. We’d say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. We’d demand justice. Now imagine even more of these college frat boys were killed because it was assumed they were partaking in the drug activity even though they’d never been involved in that. Would we write off their lives as “guilty by association”? Would we blame them for their own deaths because they were hanging out with the wrong people? Or would we be appalled at the police? Seriously, if you know a white guy who was in a fraternity, imagine it was him. That guy. The one with a name and a face and a family and a story. The human being you know and love.

Now let’s take it a step further and imagine the officers killing these “upstanding citizens” received no punishment because they “felt their lives were in danger” every time they walked into those frat houses. We’d think that was ridiculous. We’d see that as a huge miscarriage of justice. We certainly wouldn’t allow it to keep happening. Now imagine how you would perceive police in the face of all of this if you were a white college frat boy. You probably wouldn’t feel safe when they were around. Multiply that feeling by a few thousand and you’ll start to have some understanding of what all these Black people are talking about and why they’re so angry. The biggest difference here: the white boy chooses the fraternity. A Black man doesn’t choose his skin color.

I get that you don’t get it, white people. Because I used to not get it either. I work in the “self-improvement” industry. I coach clients every day on taking personal accountability for their lives. I’m a firm believer that your words precede your thoughts and your thoughts dictate your actions and that hard work trumps talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I firmly believe that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you choose to react to it. I used to think that personal responsibility was the problem and answer to everyone’s struggles. I didn’t get it until I took it upon myself to learn. I didn’t get it until I studied real American history (not just what they teach us in K-12) and uncovered that the reality is, the playing field between us and them is not the same to begin with. I didn’t get it until I recognized that while I can absolutely take accountability for my choices now, they have nothing to do with the privilege I was born into. The “privilege” part of White Privilege is not solely referring to monetary privilege.  The whole point of white privilege is referring to the privileges we don’t realize we have. It’s about the fact that we actually have to research this stuff to know what’s going on because we don’t personally experience it. It’s about the fact that we actually have a choice to tune it out or ignore it or turn it off. We’re talking about things like the fact that “nude” is a color that describes a variation of white skin and “flesh toned” bandaids are the color of white flesh, and what kind of impact visual messages like that have.

Take some time to study The Willie Lynch letter and then read some books on psychology and sociology to understand the lasting damaging ramifications of that sentiment. Slavery wasn’t just 400 years ago when the mindset and systems that created it are perpetuated, and the effects are lasting to this day. Jim Crow was in place only 50 years ago. Our parents and grandparents lived through it. And policy doesn’t change people’s minds. Just because the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts were passed didn’t mean that overnight people’s biases that forced the need for that legislation in the first place, just disappeared. Learn about the history behind drugs and perpetual drug culture in poor (primarily minority) communities and where it came from. Do some research on the historical prevalence of planted evidence and you may start to understand why so many people of color distrust the police. Spend some time learning about all the work The Innocence Project has done to find out how prevalent it is for wrongful convictions to be against people of color. Read the Moynihan report to understand how the welfare system is a trap that perpetuates single parent households. Read up on where pubic school funding comes from to understand that the education gap is not because poor Black kids can’t or don’t want to learn or that they’re intellectually inferior. Access is not the same. Learn about Reagan’s War on Drugs and Iran-Contra and then ask yourself about how altruistic the administration’s intentions really could have been with eradicating drugs. This wasn’t 400 years ago. This was in the 80s and 90s. Learn about mandatory minimums, which crimes are targeted and who the perpetrators of those crimes are likely to be. It’s all over Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. The information is out there, white people. It should outrage all of us. The only excuse at this point not to know our history is at best apathy and at worst, racism & denial.

But ok, white people… You don’t want to make it about race? Make it about policy then. Make it about protocol. Make it about training. Make it about SOMETHING because this is unacceptable. These are paid public servants. They are paid to protect and serve. Nothing about protecting and serving implies intimidating and escalatingOur police forces spend FIVE TIMES more time on firearms and self-defense training than conflict management, deescalation, and ethics & integrity training COMBINED. It’s not just a Black and Brown issue, it’s an issue about excessive use of force and the lack of accountability in such cases. There are countless examples of excessive use of force against every race. There’s a problem if you don’t see a problem.

The police don’t get the “benefit of the doubt” until they stop reaching for their guns when they’re interacting with Black, Brown & Native people. You don’t get to CHOOSE a career that includes putting your life in danger as part of the job description, and then kill people with the justification that you felt that your life was in danger… especially not in an open carry state. If you are afraid of the people paying you to protect them, FIND ANOTHER JOB. Why don’t we give the man on the ground the benefit of the doubt? What if history has proven to him that law enforcement is something to fear? What if in the face of HIS fear, he too was forced to choose fight or flight? So far this year, nearly 600 civilians have been killed by law enforcement, and we’re only halfway through 2016. The number of officers killed in the line of duty so far this year? Fifty-nine… (And that includes traffic accidents and heart attacks while on the job.) In other words, an officer is 10 times more likely to kill a civilian than the other way around. So who are the ones who should really be fearing for their lives? Last year over 1,000 people were killed by police; ZERO police officers were convicted. This isn’t just a policing issue. This is a human rights issue.

I get that you’re not quick to jump to conclusions about race. The fact of the matter is, you’ve never had to. The fact that you want to “wait for an investigation” is actually not your fault. It’s a product of your experience. Your experience with law enforcement has probably been mostly cordial because there is mutual respect between you and them. But the truth is, white people: That doesn’t mean that all police officers are super humans who do no wrong. I think it’s safe to assume that most people think that most police officers have good intentions. But if someone in any other line of work acted with gross misconduct, we’d say they weren’t good at their job. They would be fired. Why can’t we admit when law enforcement is making mistakes? What is so scary about that? Why can’t we see that a badge and a uniform does not make someone superman? Why is it so hard to utter the words, “Not all cops are bad people, (in fact most probably aren’t) but clearly something is wrong”?  We can love our children and still recognize when they’re misbehaving; We can love our country and still recognize there is something egregiously wrong. While it’s natural for you to feel the way you feel because of your life experience, what the Black community is desperately asking the rest of us to have empathy for and open our eyes to is that their experience is different. It’s not your fault you were born with the skin you were born with. It IS your responsibility to seek understanding. 

As white people, we have to stop giving advice to Black people on how they should be navigating their blackness. Until we have put on Black skin, we don’t get to tell Black people how they should feel or respond to the injustices they perceive and experience.  Nobody wants to hear about how you would act in the presence of law enforcement if you were Black. You’re not Black. Your words are not helping. They’re hurting. Our opinions on how they can “save themselves” in police encounters are irrelevant. If the only words you have are to criticize or downplay their feelings, please white people, just don’t say anything. If you are more prepared to defend the good cops than you are to condemn the bad ones or the problems woven into the institution they’re a part of, please white people, keep your mouths closed. If you are more concerned with talking about the crime in the Black community than you are with the systematic oppression of their people, please look in the mirror and work on fixing yourself first. If your first response is going to be anything other than empathy, concern, love & anger on their behalf, please just keep it to yourself. They’ve been hurt enough. They don’t need a layer of our apathy to be added to the pain. If you are at a loss for words and don’t know what to say, just say this: “I can’t possibly understand, but I am sorry you are hurting. I am with you.” Period.

Just to be clear: Being pro-Black or supporting Black Lives Matter does not equate to being anti-white, anti-authority or anti-police. Being FOR anything doesn’t automatically make you AGAINST anything else. Being FOR my family doesn’t mean I’m against yours. It means I love my family. Asking for equal treatment and respect does not imply that Black people believe their lives are MORE important than ours. (Key word: EQUAL). If you see no problem with Irish Americans celebrating St. Patricks Day, but you are uncomfortable with Black people celebrating their blackness, you have a problem. If you see no problem with Italians having restaurants in Little Italy and Chinese people having shops in Chinatown, but you see a problem with Black people celebrating Black community, you have a problem. If you march with the LGBT community for gay pride, but Black pride threatens you, you have a problem. If you don’t even blink when employees protest and picket for higher wages but you see a problem with Black people protesting for respect of life, you have a problem. If you think the Confederate flag is a perfectly acceptable symbol of Southern “pride” but dashikis and afros and kente cloth are “militant”, you have a problem. If any of this makes you uncomfortable, the problem is not them, it’s you.

#BlackLivesMatter is not divisive. You know what is? The rest of us saying it is. What’s divisive is our silence, our blatant apathy. What’s divisive is the fact that our Black “friends” and colleagues see us vocally opposing the shooting deaths of lions in Africa and gorillas in Cincinnati but not other human beings. What’s divisive is our support of attack victims in Paris and Germany and Turkey, but our silence regarding the attacks on our own neighbors. What’s divisive is that we are outraged when a civilian walks into a nightclub and murders innocent people but we justify when someone we pay to protect us murders innocent people in a traffic stop. Why are we ok with saying they were targeted because they were gay but we’re so hesitant to say they were targeted because they were Black?

What’s divisive is the rest of us refusing to acknowledge that Black lives matter, the rest of us who can’t wait to discount this movement by screaming, “All lives matter!” Yes, all lives matter. We’re not talking about that right now. We’re making a distinction about the Black ones because the actions of our law enforcement agencies and judicial system and white apathy keep telling us they don’t. Imagine how you would feel if you were venting to your significant other about having a bad day and their response was, “Well I had a bad day today too. Everyone has bad days.” You probably wouldn’t keep them around for long. You’d probably think they were totally clueless, lacked empathy and were completely self-absorbed. What if you went to the doctor with a broken leg and, without acknowledging your leg, he started to give you a lecture on nutrition and diabetes and talk to you about your cholesterol and heart health. Wouldn’t you think, “Yeah I know my whole body is important but let’s fix the broken part right now because I can’t walk!”? I’ve never seen October roll around and heard any kind of outrage because it’s BREAST cancer awareness month instead of ALL cancer awareness month. It doesn’t mean we forgot about all the other cancers. Yes, all cancers matter. Does it upset you that the NFL wears pink shoes for a month?

“But I don’t mean it that way”. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are when they’re telling you it’s insensitive. They’re telling you how it’s perceived. So stop. When your kid misbehaves or makes a mistake and says to you, “But I didn’t mean to do it,” do you just take his explanation and let him continue to misbehave? No, you course correct and expect him to learn and expect that he won’t do it again. How many cartoons and explanations and analogies and examples do you need before you realize it doesn’t matter that you don’t mean it that way? It’s insensitive. It’s a slap in the face. It misses the point. It is the exact reason the Black lives needed to be specified in the first place. It’s not about us for once. You’ve been informed. So stop acting like a whiny child who feels like he didn’t get invited to the party. Just stop.

Here’s where I’m about to shock you, white people. Get ready for it… We should not just be tolerating the Black Lives Matter movement, we should be supporting it, encouraging it, applauding it, on the front lines with it. Because BLM is not about targeting white police or hating white people. #BlackLivesMatter is simply calling, asking, peacefully protesting for a better, more compassionate, less aggressive, less reactionary police force. Period. We all aim to benefit from more compassionate public servants. We all aim to benefit if police treat us with less presumption of criminality and more willingness to listen. We all benefit from demilitarizing our police force. We all aim to benefit if police don’t see themselves as members of a military gestapo on the front lines of a war. Storm troopers are unnecessary outside of Star Wars and war zones. We all aim to benefit if the police stop the culture of “us vs them”. Take a moment and do a Google search. The videos are everywhere. There are unarmed people of all races harassed, beaten, handcuffed without probable cause, and killed at the hands of an overly aggressive police force. There are children… CHILDREN… who have been maimed and killed by overly aggressive law enforcement agencies who “accidentally” targeted the wrong people. Now there are also examples of police forces who have taken a good look at themselves, admitted there’s a problem, and are working to try to fix it with better training. And in those cities, it’s working. Now if some of the police forces across the country can admit they have a problem, enough to start to try to fix it, how in the world are you still in denial? The first step is admitting there’s a problem. The next is doing everything in our power to help support change. When BLM succeeds, we ALL benefit. We should be thanking them for taking the charge. Fifty years from now, I believe we will.

If the rest of us stood in solidarity with hurting people, realized “they” are not so different from us after all, recognized that they were celebrating our country’s independence on July 4th with cookouts and family and fireworks, just like us… If we weren’t so threatened by “Black Lives Matter” because we put an invisible “ONLY” in front of the statement instead of the assumed “ALSO” at the end, we’d be starting to get somewhere. If the rest of us said, “Yes, Black lives DO matter. I stand in solidarity with you. I’m with you. I, too, oppose systemic institutionalized racist discrimination. I, too, want to see this changed…” If the rest of us joined the movement instead of so vehemently opposing it, we’d come to unity in an instant. If we looked deep at our own hypocrisy, if we were willing to swallow our own pride, if we would choose to humanize victims instead of detach from them, we would start to bridge the gap. We have the CHOICE to stand up or be silent. They have no choice. We know we matter. Our history tells us so. Why can’t we let them matter too? We did not choose our skin color any more than they chose theirs. We did not choose the socio-economic environments we were born into any more than anyone else chose theirs. Stop taking credit and assigning blame for something none of us had any part in.

It’s our responsibility to have empathy & to seek understanding, white people. It’s our responsibility to use our positions of privilege to respond with more love and less criticism. If millions of our fellow citizens are telling us they’re having similar experiences, maybe we should listen. No part of listening requires giving our opinions. Just. Listen. Maybe, just maybe, we should respond with empathy and open hearts, instead of blame and disbelief. Recognizing the validity of someone else’s message should not threaten the integrity of your own. Your light does not diminish by letting someone else’s light shine. On the contrary, we shine brighter together. Our light has been shining for 400+ years. It’s ok to let someone else shine too.

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63 thoughts on “Dear White People…”

  1. This was a great read and I agreed with much of what was written. There’s only one problem. What I have seen and heard with my very own eyes and ears time and time again is any black persons whose views don’t mesh with this are vilified and called names by other black people such as coons/Uncle Toms/bed wenches, and accused of basically being sell-outs and race traitors. In fact, I have seen more hatred directed at those persons that I have at the white persons described in the article.

    I genuinely would like to hear this explained.

    1. I can’t tell you what Black people think or what anyone else thinks for that matter. I can only speculate that maybe because if someone within their own community is discrediting their experience, it might feel like a double slap in the face, a la “Strangers don’t believe my story and my family doesn’t either”. To not see what is happening, regardless of color is choosing ignorance, or at the very least apathy and unchecked ethnocentrism in my opinion. And then there’s the narrative that to not have empathy for your own people equates to delusion, denial & self-hate. There are countless books that have been written on the inundation of self-hate in the Black community perpetuated by media, advertising, history, etc. They can probably explain better than I can.

      1. Here in Canada, there is a somewhat parallel with Indigenous people ‘Native Americans’ (of which I am one), and there is a lot of what has been described as lateral violence. This is when an oppressed people begin to manifest this oppression on each other. So violence and anger and fear. An unfortunate reality in both situations. This is not an excuse but it is one explanation.

      2. White people don’t agree on everything. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are white and they have different opinions about a lot of things. Why do you think it odd that there are a diversity of opinions among blacks?

      3. I would like to know why you blame everything on white people and the police? Of course none of the blame is put on the “victims” who were resisting the instant they saw the police, most of which had guns on their person. By the way most of them were also felons that were illegally carrying a firearms, not legally abiding by the law being good people. Let me guess, it’s our fault they are felons carrying illegal weapons while resisting the police. Don’t get me wrong, there are bad cops(and I hope justice prevails in those cases) but not everything is our fault. So why did #blacklivesmatter protest against police killing Michael brown but not the little girl who was shot by a black gang member while doing her homework the same night in the same area? So they arw fine with a black man killing a black child but if a police officer kills a scumbag then look out.

      4. Thank you for your input. Did you not actually read the whole post? Or did you read it and just not comprehend it? It’s very carefully and purposefully written so I can’t imagine it’s a matter of reading comprehension. I have to assume you didn’t actually read it. Please read it. I believe you’ll find all of the answers to your comments/questions are actually addressed in it.

    2. Apples and oranges. That’s my explaination. One has nothing to with the other except to minimize and distract. Whether or not intentionally.

      1. According to DOJ and FBI stats, 84% of white people are killed by other white people. https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-43. The whole black on black crime argument is moot. Crime has less to do with targeting a specific race and more to do with environment and access. While there are numbers that skew more heavily to suggest that there are higher percentage rates of violent crime within black communities, that ignores the underlying roots of why that’s the case. And is not necessarily causation. Black communities are policed more heavily, black people are tried with heavier sentencing for the same crimes, etc. So the numbers will probably naturally be skewed. One simply has to study The Willie Lynch letter, COINTELPRO & the Moynihan Report to see that it’s much deeper than violence we see playing out today.

    3. Why does that matter? Does it change the truth of this article? No it’s the same as pointing to black on black crime when these matters are brought up. It distracts from the point. Must black people solve ALL the problems in their community to be allowed to address this one? Yes, what you mentioned is a problem, and there are many more within the black community. Just don’t allow it to detract from the validity of the problem being addressed.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough post. As I invite bigots to unfriend me on Facebook, a post I’m working on for later, I’ll suggest they read your blog post here as a starting point for why. Thanks again.

  3. Great post. Do you have a source for this statement: ‘countless studies prove equal percentages of criminal behavior across races’? I tried googling this on my own and couldn’t find anything conclusive.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I’m surprised you couldn’t find anything since I can find 889,000 results in a Google search. And that’s just for drug crimes. When it comes to drugs, white people are actually more likely to use and sell drugs but Black people are more likely to be arrested for it. It depends on the nature of the crime of course. For example, when it comes to rape, larceny, arson, aggravated assault, etc. the scales tip much more heavily on the side of white perpetrators.

      There’s a great book I suggest you read that has all sorts of statistics in it. It’s called The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.

      You can find more info here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/09/30/white-people-are-more-likely-to-deal-drugs-but-black-people-are-more-likely-to-get-arrested-for-it/

      or here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kim-farbota/black-crime-rates-your-st_b_8078586.html

      or here: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-43

      Thanks for reading!

      1. Perhaps it’s the use of the word ‘equal’ that threw me. I found plenty of studies like the ones above, which show that crime rates among races are not what we would expect based on incarceration rates, but none that showed that crime was equal across all races, as you claimed in your post.

  4. “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

    Certain you were going to quote that “To kill a Mockingbird” passage, however done it now.

    Agree with everything (except the 2nd Amendment stuff of course). A short story (hopefully relevant) from my youth:

    In 1970 I recall holidaying (vacationing) in Ireland, I was six. It led to the thing I still regard as my greatest achievement. I met two lads there my own age; Peter and John. John came from a large, struggling but loving family living in a communal flat on a back street in Kinsale. (Catholic.) Peter, was a single, well-groomed child that lived semi-permanently in the main hotel there. (Protestant. Though not really relevant as I didn’t understand the implications at that age.)

    Seeing Peter outside, whilst playing indoors with John, I suggested we include him in what we were doing. “I don’t talk to him, he’s a rich kid” no doubt it having been indoctrinated into him. I pointed out that Peter wasn’t responsible for his parents wealth, and it was just chance that their situations weren’t reversed.

    Went from a good to an amazing holiday after that; we were virtually inseparable.

  5. This is spot on. In many situations where there are “sell-outs”, it has been engrained in their psyche that you need to be like white people to make it in this world. Therefore, this creates s greater divide between us because you have some trying to be like white people, but because of their skin color and trying to belong in Andersonestablish themselves, they have taken it upon themselves to be “unknowing” informants, when in fact, they have alienated themselves from the black community. Stool pigeons is what I call that kind of person

  6. Thank you for writing this piece, Dana. I am a white person, a public school teacher, and I am listening and trying very hard to understand and take to heart what you and others are sharing with us. Your points are well made. Thank you.

  7. This is a really provocative, well written essay on race-relations today. So thoughtful and well- reasoned, and yet, even on WordPress, where all the thoughtful, reasonable and truly literate hang out – this subtle push back. Why are so many people – so determined not to see or understand truths that are really, really blatant and evident right before their eyes?
    Especially when those truths are about horrorific murders occurring right in front of their eyes? How can people endlessly jump into all kinds of mental gymnastics to justify these horrors? Is it really easier to become a Nazi – and by that I mean someone who goes along with something truly evil and horrorifically dark and diabolical- than to stand up for what is right? And I’m not suggesting it’s a white thing or a German thing, because all kinds of people do this – look at Rwanda, look at Cambodia, I’m truly curious about what drives a his mad darkness that lies dormant in every human heart. And how can we stop it? What do you think?

    1. I don’t know girl. I don’t think like them. And I have a hard time putting myself in the shoes of people who don’t want to put themselves in the shoes of anyone else. But I still try. Which is why I try to respond lovingly… even to people whose only takeaway in a 2000+ word blog post is to try to find where they can passive aggressively discredit it. Because I’ve never seen hate and spite and bitterness soften people’s hearts, but I’ve seen love do it. To your questions, in my personal opinion, the darkness in humanity is sin. There are a whole host of psychological reasons why people fall into traps of apathy (group think, brainwashing, sociopathology, etc.) but in the end, I think it just points to the reality that we all fall short of the glory of God. Our apathy, egocentrism, ego, pride, fear of being wrong… in my opinion they’re all proof that we live in a fallen world. I think when people don’t have a firm definition of their own identity, they are threatened and swayed by anything that challenges what they’ve always assumed to be truth. More than knowing who I am, I know Whose I am. So I’m not threatened or worried about someone else’s come up. I want us all to win. Because we are all equal in God’s eyes. Every single one of us. I’m no better than the next person and vice versa. It’s abundance mentality vs scarcity mentality. I think a lot of people live with a scarcity mentality because they’re trying to navigate life through their own power. And our own strength and abilities are limited. I believe there’s more than enough to go around for all of us because His grace has no end. I do my best to try to do my part and then I just pray. I pray that God would soften their hearts. I pray that all the people who call themselves Christian would recognize their own brokenness, their own need for a Savior, their own faults and flaws, and actually try to be more like Christ. I do what I can and I pray and then let Him do the work.

      1. Absolutely beautiful answer my sister! Thanks for your courage, articulation and willingness to be a voice and help wake up us white people. May God reach many hearts through your words.

      2. Dana,

        Thank you for your time writing this , it takes real talent to convey a point through a single medium. So much is lost in writing i.e. tone, inflection, facial expressions, etc.

        I have read a number of articles that have stated from the black man’s perspective that talking with a white person (me) is a waste of time because deep down I am racist. I can’t talk with someone like that because the conclusion is cut, drawn and dried.

        As a career, I have worked as a medic in some pretty tough areas and being in that profession I have taught myself not see to the color of someone’s skin. Because if I start looking at someone based on their appearance, I would lose my objectivity and therefore my ability to give my patient the best possible care. So I taken the stance of all lives matter, no matter what the situation.

        Whatever the reason, I have been able to fight with a man who ,was once my step father, who saw fit to call black people N*****s, porch monkeys, etc. I was 11. I was told I was an idiot child to young to understand.
        As an adult I got in an argument with a boss who used the same words.

        It was easy for me too recognize the fact that the American Indian was basically at up to die on their reservations created by the US government. It’s not rocket science to see why they may hate and distrust anyone other than their own people.

        Growing up in Montana and seeing the reservations and then moving to California and seeing similar blight in cities here there is an unmistakable thread or should i day route weaving is way. The loathing of themselves, the loathing of being addicted to alcohol and drugs and the loathing of being given money without the combining of industry to it.

        I don’t necessarily agree with all your points but I am trying to see your view points.

        We need more young people like yourself to be articulate in explaining. More people like yourself to be our leaders. More people who take seriously the value of a person’s life beyond the shade of their skin.
        The ones who can look at the person or people and see that we’re valuable for the image that we have created in. More people who will confront evil.

        I believe what the founding fathers wrote in the beginning words of the preamble carries through today that “We the People of the United States in order to create a more perfect union……” never had greater meaning.

        I know that there are people who may hate the very mention of the Constitution, but looking past the flaws of the ones who wrote it, the very truth of what they wrote 200 plus years ago applies today. But not according to my skin color but as to wrote earlier, to be recognized as a real person.

  8. Hi Dana! Wonderful post. Thanks. (Editing issue: The Three-Fifths Compromise, is found in Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution. The 13th Amendment abolishes slavery.)

  9. Thanks for sharing this Post Dana…. even the comments. Perhaps another post about how our government has mistreated our Native/First Nations People would be interesting. We send millions of dollars to 3rd World countries but do little to support our Native American neighbors. They have been oppressed and raped of their lands and culture, but little GOOD has been written about their challenges.

    1. Hi Walter, That’s a really important point and another example of why doing something to better our police forces, judicial system, etc is so important. Their dysfunction is bad for all of us. We just have to look back at German or Cambodian or Rwandan history to know that our apathy or chosen ignorance to the systematic oppression of millions of our fellow citizens is not good for anyone. Thank you for your input.

  10. Wonderful article! A most affirming dialogue. I am totally sharing. You included everything that needs to be. The solution to this problem will come when white folks allow themselves to step out of their privilege and realize that the abolition of slavery, the civil rights act, the voting rights act, and affirmative action were not enough to make things right. It takes efforts from everyone. If black people have to keep fighting that means there is something to fight about. Black people don’t want to take over and treat white people like they were treated! Sometimes I think this is one of the reasons for oppressive abuse.

  11. This is brilliant! Brought me to tears! Please continue to share your heart! You are making a difference in this harsh world!

  12. I’m waiting to hear someone with a platform say, “Dear PEOPLE, The key to improving this situation is to determine your role. What community do you belong to, and what influence can you have within that community to make things better? Is what you’re doing helping?” Us/Them, We/They narratives need to be changed to I/Me/Mine narratives where “I” take responsibility for teaching myself and mine how to be the light this world needs. Anger, fear, frustration are natural human emotions, but the desire to seek destructive outlets for those emotions should be a trigger to SEEK HELP …for all people in all communities. Constructive, not destructive. Are you uniting or dividing? Be the light.

    1. I totally agree… which is why I am taking responsibility for trying to teach myself and mine the history behind why we’re seeing what we’re seeing play out and how to be more empathetic toward millions of hurting people. I think we have a responsibility as the group of people to whom this country has been built and maintained to be the primary beneficiaries, to be kind, empathetic, patient, etc. That’s just my personal belief.

  13. As a white man 58 years old living in the South I have seen the hatred on both sides. I know that black people are hassled more than white people and the biggest reason is drugs. It’s not the only reason but one. I don’t care if they have a group called black lives matter. They came up with the group and have the right to name it what they want. As far as the drugs they are trying to make money to live on. Create other jobs for them in their neighborhood politicians if you want to solve that problem. I don’t see any one trying to solve the problem on either side, Democrats or Republicans. The only thing in this article missing is that I don’t see the part that says black people have to take responsibility for their part in all this, not all black people, but some.

    1. Great point Buck. Thanks for your input. Every Black person I know (and I know lots of them) does take responsibility for themselves, their families, their futures, etc. They also experience racism. Taking responsibility doesn’t mean something isn’t terribly wrong with the way we police (primarily poor) communities of color. Not all cops do bad things. Not all Black people do either. We tend to classify every Black person as part of a bigger group. We assume that one Black person is responsible or speaks on behalf of all of them. That’s part of the problem. We (our policies, laws, media) tend to treat white people as individuals (lone wolf shooters, etc) and Black people as all representative of each other. Which is why it’s so interesting that a lot of the commentary on this post has been complaining that not all white people think this way. I know they don’t. I’m white. But notice how defensive you (“you” in the figurative sense, not you literally) were that you got lumped into a group of people. That’s how Black people feel every day. Thanks for your input.

      1. I grew up in a family and around white people who hate black people just because they are black. The ones who are still alive still hate them. They also hate me for not hating them. I have seen how black people are treated and agree that it needs to change. I was taught to hate but for some reason I never caught on to it. I can’t imagine how it is to grow up black but I know it has to be hard, very hard. I stand with black people on the point that law’s need to be changed. When police are wrong they need to be punished the same as you and I. What I was trying to say was that when the black person is wrong I would like for them to all stand together and point out that the person was wrong so others would not think that it is okay. Maybe I just can’t put into writing what I feel sometimes. I don’t put the blame on any of us as much as I put it on politicians. None of them seem to care as much about fixing the problem as they do about scoring political points. Anyway thanks for caring enough about problem to take a stand and trying to help. God bless you and help you. I will do all I can to help and share your work. Stay Strong

  14. This is an extremely compelling persuasive essay. The first thing I noticed, as someone who studies words closely, is that “white” is always lower case and “Black” is always capitalized. I sincerely wonder about the intended symbolism. I’m a bit taken aback by the generalization that all white people share the view the author portrays. Is that not stereotyping? Is stereotyping not just another form of racism? Were my next door neighbors, who are African American, or my neighbors across the street, who are African American, or my neighbor down the street, who is African American, denied credit on their $300,000 homes? Were they denied their management level jobs or their military promotions? Am I wrong to assume that they’re just hard-working people who made good choices? Do I live in some kind of freakish statistical vacuum where, within a one block area, there are three African American families I know personally doing well, by society’s standards? (I’ll add that there are at least two other African American families in the same block, and this is an area of acreages, so there isn’t a high concentration of homes.) I suppose that sounds facetious, but that’s really not my intent. Am I mislead by their professional and economic success? Are they just trying to be white? Are they just living the American dream? Were they once young struggling Black people, as we were once young struggling white people? Or, collectively, were my neighbors and my husband and me all once young struggling PEOPLE? Perhaps the most—and perhaps only—universal truth in this article is that one’s perception IS one’s reality. I’m truly trying to wrap my head around the entire controversy and the state of race relations. If I were not, I wouldn’t be reading this. What I’m finding though, in trying to engage in dialog, is that dialog has come to mean communicating only with those who share beliefs. That accomplishes nothing.

    1. I love your input. The target audience is people in general (of any race) who don’t understand the history behind the anger and place blame on victims rather than looking at the social constructs that have lead to where we’re at. It’s implied: “Dear White people…(who don’t understand and are apathetic to or angry about what’s going on in our country and a large portion of the Black community right now)”. Not all white people think this way (Obviously. I’m white). And I don’t know any Black people who think all white people think this way. Do most of the ones I know think most white people don’t “get it”. Yes. Which is why I wrote this. But I’m sure not all Black people feel this way either. Why capitalize Black and not white? That’s not intentionally symbolic. It’s because I use Black as shorthand for African American and that’s capitalized. No I don’t believe stereotyping is the same thing as racism. Racism implies a power differential. I think socio-economics is a huge contributor. These issues are much more prevalent in poor communities. However, I would encourage you to humbly and lovingly and without judgment, ask your African American neighbors in your upwardly mobile community their thoughts on what’s going on and if they’ve ever experienced racism. I live in a nice Black neighborhood, I went to one of the best universities in the country and have college educated Black friends, friends with doctorates and law degrees. And I don’t have a single Black friend who feels that they’ve never experienced racism. I had a friend who’s a lawyer – who works in the DA’s office, amongst police officers – tell me last night, “Since I was 16 years old, every time I’ve ever been pulled over by police, I’ve feared for my life.” Of course everything is perception. And these are my opinions based off of my education, environment and the people in my life. I know my opinions are different from a lot of peoples. I appreciate you willing to dialogue. My main point in writing this was to try to elicit empathy. Unfortunately for a lot of people, they need “facts” which is why it’s so long.

      1. Also, notice that CR mentions the neighbors on his street, and you mention you have black friends. Usually this is the case, and there is a reason for that. One way to see blacks as “others” is to not have them personally in your life. There is a big difference between a neighbor and a friend. Empathizing with others, opening the door to identifying with another’s experience comes from getting close enough to a real person to see them, to share deeply. To me, this is the heart of the problem in America – So many white people don’t even recognize that they have managed to live their lives without any diversity in their relationships. They usually pass this behavior on to their children even if they are liberal. I have a hard time understanding how we as human beings are still so segregated, so divided. It’s a matter of heart, of being scared, of not self-examining and asking oneself “why do I care so little about the human condition that others experience?” How can our hearts still be so closed for so many years?

        Thanks for your article, you are making a difference in the world.

  15. Very good article. This is the type of read that all of us white people need to read. It’s not so much that white’s don’t like blacks. It’s more I believe that they do not understand fully what the black race has gone through years pastand still some today. This article is a big eye opener and makes alot of sense from the perspective of the black man or woman. I appreciate you for taking the time to write this and have this dilog with the white race. This is much needed and hopefully can help bring us all together as one people.

  16. This article is EXACTLY right. A lot of people don’t realise the adjustments people of colour have to make to lessen the effect of racism.

    I don’t use my real name (12 letters long) at work. So many behavioural characteristics over the decades since childhood, all adjusted to fit in with white society around us. You become conditioned to it and it no longer becomes a burden. But it’s still there.

    It’s on my mind every time I’m talking to someone, going to the supermarket, going to the beach. That as a coloured person I just want acceptance. Then, when I do get acceptance, I can then bring more of my cultural side out. But that takes time. Otherwise, I have to act as white as possible, as often as possible. These factors are what the vast majority of white society does not understand.

    You don’t get beaten for the colour of your skin. You don’t have your hair pulled and turban ripped off multiple times by the kids at school. You don’t have girls not approach you as a teenager because you’re not white. You don’t have to constantly prove yourself through commentary written or verbal to people that want to stereotype you into realising that you are a progressive person who sees no colour, no race, no gender divide. You don’t have to change your name to something white people can pronounce so they can feel more comfortable. You don’t have to stand there in silence and watch your culture get appropriated by whites and be unable to say a thing about it for fear of being told you’re “over reacting”. And you don’t have to make yourself believe over the years that these, among many other things, aren’t a burden and that you should just “deal with it”.

    This is all there, every minute of every single day. And you wonder why coloured folk are fed up and angry? Even more so when white people have the hide to proclaim we’re over reacting? Fuck off. Were generations of your kind raped and hung, kids torn from their families and cultures destroyed just because they weren’t white enough? Do you have ANY idea what it’s like to live in the ripple effect of that?

    But on the contrary, that also doesn’t mean it’s okay for any coloured people to respond with violence, because if they do, then they don’t respect themselves, or the beauty of the multicultural society we ALL live in, and they do nothing to help the underlying issue: that regardless of colour and language, we’re ALL HUMAN, and all VERY capable of loving each other no matter what.

    And you know what, the first person to ever show me that concept in action was a girlfriend when I was 22: she was WHITE, and the first white person who ever showed me that concept and made me realise the only divide that society sees is really just a mind game – but people HAVE fallen for that mind game. Vastly, white people.

    Coloured people are angry because we’re not getting equal treatment. Even in 2016, it STILL isn’t happening. And for some reason, many whites cannot understand that. Many comments on the internet reflect it. Statistics about how many black killings there are versus white by so many white posters are used as a justification for racism. THAT’S NOT WHAT THE ISSUE IS ABOUT.

    Perhaps more white people need to spend time in regions where they are the minority, and see how you feel. And what you WILL feel is just a minute percentile of what we have to deal with our WHOLE LIVES. And I’m not saying that for a sympathy vote. We’re strong enough to handle that, I think that’s VERY clear. We’ve had to. But the point is we have to make adjustments that white people NEVER have to think about.

    I’m not saying “white people are evil”. But I AM saying you need to have a REALLY deep think about these ideas, because the reality is that MOST of you do not understand what we people of colour have to deal with in order to find ways for white people to NOT feel uncomfortable or threatened by us. It’s been this way for HUNDREDS of years, not just now.

    Thankfully though, and as is with many white friends, partners over the years that I’ve had, I’ve seen a BRILLIANT change in mindset and embrace of other colours and cultures. But this needs to happen on a MUCH greater scale. True progression HAS begun, but the next step needs to be taken. We as coloured want whites to stand WITH US, NOT AGAINST us.

    Peace. x

  17. Hands down the most intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough piece I’ve read on race, privilege, and the power of context. I would that ALL white people shared this view. Thank you.

  18. Thank you for writing this piece; I’ll be sharing it with many people. One edit from the start of the article– it’s “deep seated,” not “seeded” (though seeded metaphorically seems to make more sense.

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  20. Are you familiar with the film The Color Of Fear? It’s by a Chinese-American man, Lee Mun Wah, and it puts eight men in a room together for a weekend, two each of the four major ethnic groups in the US to talk about race/ethnicity in America. I think it was made in the early 90s. The most powerful moment is one in which one of the black men loses it finally with one of the white men who has been repeatedly denying the impact and experience of racism using the personal responsibility argument. Something somehow gets through to the white man in this moment and he starts to cry. He explains that he desperately doesn’t want to believe that some people’s lives are so unfairly and negatively impacted by racism and prejudice so it’s easier to deny it and blame the people claiming the experience. As a person of mixed race, this was eye-opening to me because I had never realized this type of denial might be playing a role in the phenomenon you so expertly describe above. It helped me be more understanding when I encounter this mindset, and more determined to help people come to grips with reality. Look up the film. It’s quite something.

  21. Dana,
    Thank you for your eloquent words.
    I have tried explaining to people who push back against BLM by saying “All lives matter.” Some understand and appreciate the distinction; others are just unwilling to see it.
    I just don’t get that. I first realized the difference years ago when I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a child.
    I grew up in California and never saw a “Whites only” sign. I grew up and went to school with friends who were black, Asian, Hispanic, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic and we rarely thought about it. Or that’s what I believed. I found out long after graduation that a good friend of mine, a black man whose parents were doctors, frequently was pulled over by police for no reason except that that part of town was predominantly white.
    I ache for my friend and many others like him and my heart hurts for all the death and ugliness and lack of compassion across the country.
    I will share your essay with as many as I can. I hope it helps awareness and understanding grow.

  22. Dana,

    Thank you so very much writing this. There aren’t enough words for me express my personal gratitude. White people don’t want to hear or believe it from us. I plan to post this on my fb page and in the comments tag every white friend that I have, and ask that each one ( that gets it) teach one.

    If you were here I’d give you a huge hug and then buy you a coffee :-).

  23. Truest words of wisdom! when truth is revealed, ears are closed.
    At some point we (Africa’s )children must realize that the way they treat us is the same way they were treat in western Europe.
    When the powerless get power they take on a false air of superiority, and want to prove on the backs of those unaware individuals how great they are and try at all cost to maintain that illusion.

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