Understand that what you don’t understand.
This week I had a hard time putting down in words what I wanted to say about the situation because a part of me believed I didn’t have the right to inject my opinion into it. I feel far removed from the riots and the problems that they address, but “staying away from it” is what allows it to continue.
The “All Lives Matter” movement spit their righteous virtue to promote the sanctity of all lives, and they don’t want any race to be distinguished from the rest. Noble, but it denies the point, it denies what Black Lives Matter is trying to say.
It's okay to be human, and I’ll admit without shame but apologetically that I didn’t understand a lot of things around this subject for most of my life. I didn’t understand what white privilege meant and I didn’t understand what “Black Lives Matter” was trying to say. If anything, I was a little resistant to these terms, because to me they didn’t reflect the truth that I experienced.
I was resistant because I often got barked at by people I didn’t know, accusing me of things I didn’t do or wasn’t involved with. I was called a white supremacist without ever opening my mouth against anyone of color. I was always told I had “white privilege” which made me scoff, it felt as if it implied that my life was easy just because of my race. Now I understand it isn’t that simple.
Much like many other intelligent people I wanted peace, I gave the benefit of the doubt and I wanted to see it from all sides; I didn’t know the whole story. Aware that I didn't know everything, I was smart enough to keep my opinion to myself. That does not make me a racist or a bad person, I think not taking any sides until I knew more was the smartest thing I could do. Now, I know more, maybe not everything yet, but enough to feel confident to speak up.
I’ve learned quickly that the stressed-out strangers barking accusations aren’t necessarily the same people who are fighting for a good fight under the banner of “Black Lives Matter”, using the terms white supremacy or white privilege.
It’s hard to see that systemic racism is everywhere if you’re far away from it.
After the shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, the police department of Ferguson was broadly investigated. The ministry concluded that they perceived that there’s a culture of targeting African-American citizens. Policemen are being coached into arresting black people for every little thing they can come up with to increase the money flow. The report concluded that patrolling schedules are based on which areas are going to increase the fine revenue and do not keep in mind if it contributes to the community’s safety. It’s reported that it goes as far as policemen being instructed to perceive every move as a threat, just to find a reason to arrest the person involved. Most notably, they purposely target neighborhoods that have a large African-American community. 93% of arrests made by FPD officers, were African-American, despite comprising only 67% of Ferguson’s population. That is not a coincidence. This is what defines racism in the most classical sense, and there is very little room to debate it.
In an interview with CNN about the 1991 attack on Rodney King, where police brutality was filmed for the first time, it’s notable how they mention that such brutality was described as: never been seen before. It tells me that the police are aware that what they’re doing is out of line.
That police in the US act with racist intension is not a guess, or a suspicion, or just a conclusion based on patterns. We know that this is what they do, it’s been said, confessed, reaffirmed, and registered.
What’s not clear to me yet why there is such an urge to turn against one ethnic group so aggressively. Is it a hangover from colonial times? Is it a grudge from the civil war?
The conflict between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper that became a topic soon after George Floyd’s death raised even more questions for me. Even though the man was just standing there holding a phone, she was genuinely terrified. This made a lot of people argue that perhaps more happened than the video suggested. What may have set her off was the phrase “if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you may not like it.” Which sounds a little shady on its own but somehow in my mind I know that if a white man had said that, she wouldn’t have been so scared.
I simply don’t imagine that such deep distress at the sight of someone of a different race is natural. This is taught, or conditioned in. But no matter the deeper root, reason, trauma, or history that fuels this type of reaction, it is real, it is widespread, and it is racism.
George Floyd, there is no debating it.
I try not to judge people who don’t know better. Everyone who is removed from the situation depends on social media and news outlets to tell them what’s going on. It is remarkable that people even understand the problem despite the false perceptions that the truth is buried in.
Still, when someone wants to know what happened before the “incident”, or wonder what he was arrested for, it makes me a little mad.
Despite if the police are corrupt, despite the races involved, despite what he was arrested for, and even despite if he resisted arrest, absolutely nothing can justify a trained officer of the law keeping his knee on a man’s neck for so long. A disciplined officer, who hears his victim gasp, who hears the crowd shout, who knows damn well how long he must have been on the man’s neck, knew full well what he was doing when he was doing it. Did you ever wonder why, considering it was four against one, they didn’t just get up and put him in the car? Why they insisted on keeping him on the floor, breathless? You know why.
Not understanding racism doesn’t make you racist, but just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
What does white privilege mean?
When someone talked about “white privilege”, I’d roll my eyes and sarcastically mutter that I’m still waiting for my privilege to save me.
I still feel it’s a misnomer. To me, it suggests that my life is easy and smooth because I’m perceived as white (I have a whole opinion on the “defining by race” culture that humanity has, but that is a can of worms for another time.)
This is not what that term means to say. Every ethnicity has its issues, but the white part of our humanity is often blind to the issues other ethnicities have because they’re too far away from it. They’re privileged to not have to deal with that.
This is something you see again now. People who are too removed from the problem to see the impact, are rationalizing the situation. They want to say that all lives matter, they want to know the facts. They want to hear all sides of the story, and they don’t want to jump to conclusions, not knowing that these conclusions that they are still thinking about, have been drawn a thousand times by the community who is closely involved.
When lives are involved, there is very little room for benefit of the doubt.
I’ve seen it in South-Africa as well. Even though the situation is completely different, I see a similar phenomenon around the matter of informal housing. It’s easy for an outsider to say that “if they don’t want to live in tin shags, they should work harder” when he doesn’t live in those shags himself. It's not about if he's right or wrong, or about if they work hard or not. It's not about what they deserve, I mean to say that he cannot possibly judge what they should do, if he's not in that situation.
Now that I’ve seen it first hand, I can identify it quicker in myself.
So what does this all mean for All Lives Matter?
We are taught to hear both sides of a story, to believe in innocent until proven guilty, and we like to think there is more to a situation, something that explains someone's behavior. Common phrases used by “All Lives Matter” supporters are “Not all cops are bad” and “I’m sure there was more to it”. But what we hear them say the most is that we shouldn’t distinguish the white cop vs. the black community as the only problem. They say everyone has issues and that this problem shouldn’t receive more attention than the rest.
But it should, the fact that people are still willing to give the benefit of the doubt means that they don’t understand how much there is to know. It is the benefit of the doubt that leaves room for error and for history to repeat itself. A white man murders a black man on film and the benefit of the doubt in the form of “we don’t know the full story” and “All lives matter” allowed authorities to take their time to decide if he should be arrested or not. And it is the deep-rooted racism that lets people think it’s okay to give the murderer the benefit of the doubt.
Don’t give these situations “the benefit of the doubt”, that doubt kills people.
To say "Black Lives Matter" is an attempt to level the field, they need the advantage point because they are disadvantaged by our urge to play the neutral judge.