• The Grey Squirrel

I Can Not Be Polite About This Anymore

"Well, I can see why you would care. You have black kids.”

I’ve stopped counting the number of times that I’ve heard this statement from people. It used to surprise me into silence, but not anymore.

“Do you honestly think that the only reason that someone should care about racial disparity in this country is because it affects them directly?”

That’s usually met with an uncomfortable laugh and a “Well, no, that’s not what I was saying.” “Why does everything have to be about race?” “Can’t you just keep race out of this?” “We don’t know that race had anything to do with it.”

Then it moves to: “Well, he shouldn’t have run.” “If he had just listened to the police.” “If he wasn’t hiding anything, he didn’t have anything to be afraid of.” “I have a black friend who agrees with me.”

Finally, if really pushed, it becomes: “The jails aren’t full of innocent people.” “Maybe if they just stayed in school and stopped having so many babies.” “You know most crime is black on black.” “Have you seen a rap video lately? That’s the word they use for themselves.”

I’m not black, which means that a lot of white people feel like they can be honest with me. They can say the things that they would never say to a black person. They think that I’m one of them, so deep down, I must agree with them. When I don’t, it smacks like betrayal. A betrayal that can only be understood through the lens of “Well, you have black kids, so I can see how you would feel that way.”

What they don’t seem to understand is that when they say that, what they are really saying is “I don’t care about your kids. I don’t care about how they have to live in a world where a white woman can threaten a black man by saying that she is going to call the police and say he was threatening her. I’m ok with the fact that crimes against black people have to be filmed in order to be believed. My discomfort facing the truth about race in our country is worth more than the discomfort black people feel living in that country.”

Armed white people stormed the Michigan capital, blocked traffic in Denver, and screamed at hospital employees in Arizona. They decried social distancing, ignored orders from authorities, and refused to inconvenience themselves with masks. These protests went on for weeks and spread across the country. Police stood by stoically while thousands disrupted the peace and committed civil disobedience.

Unarmed protestors in Minnesota chanting “I can’t breath” to protest the death of a black man were met by police in riot gear and fired upon with teargas and rubber bullets within hours.

Do you really think that this is not about race?

The only people who can say that it’s not about race are the people who don’t have to consider theirs before they act.

Black comfort and safety are put behind white comfort and safety so often that it can be hard to see it because it is accepted as the norm and any deviation from that norm is portrayed as inciteful: A Confederate flag is history but a Black Lives Matter t-shirt is intimidation. A re-open protest is fighting for liberty but a protest against police brutality is a riot. Armed white men are pro-2nd Amendment patriots but an unarmed black man is a threat. A white woman decries the tyranny of not being able to get a haircut while black women fight to have laws passed to protect them from being fired for wearing their hair as it grows naturally out of their heads.

It is not enough to say you are not a racist.

It’s not enough to say that you don’t see color.

It is not enough to have black friends.

Love is not enough.

Anger is not enough.

Action is required.

We must dismantle a system that places the value of white discomfort ahead of black safety.

White people are afraid that change will cost them their comfortable status quo. Black people are afraid that not changing will cost them their lives.

I don’t care about this because I have black children. I care about this because it is right to care, it is right to speak up, it is right to act.

If you don’t, you’re wrong.

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