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Thoughts on #Ferguson

November 25, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

I have a lot to say and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll find these thoughts quite redundant. But I need to put them down somewhere and get them out of my brain and off my chest.

Let me preface this by saying: I don’t hate white people. I think white people and black people need to work together to effect change. That being said…

I live in a white neighborhood. It’s a peaceful neighborhood with very little crime. One day, I sat in my car, idling in the parking lot next to my apartment, listening to the remainder of a favorite song. I had just come from the gym and it was at night. A cop car pulled alongside me with a white officer at the helm. He very politely asked if everything was okay and I replied that it was. He gave me a dubious “okay” and pulled away.

I’m not sure what probable cause he had for pulling up. Because businesses were closed? Because it was a lone car idling in the parking lot? Did he see that I was a woman all alone? Did he see a black person in a car and wondered what the hell I was doing in the neighborhood?

I’ll never know. But the latter option has run through my mind.

That’s not the only instance in which my family has had a run in with white cops. I often tell the story of my dad who was driving home (we lived in a predominantly white neighborhood) and was less than a half-mile from home when he got stopped by a cop. The officer asked what he was doing and my father said he was heading home. The officer asked where that was and my father said it was down the street, a couple of houses away. The officer let my father go and my dad made it home safely, but he was always convinced he got stopped for DWB — driving while black.

I had a conversation with my husband that left me in tears last night. Because I love my son and I well and truly believe that he’s somewhat at a disadvantage because of his skin color. Despite the fact that Trayvon Martin was not killed by a cop, I really fear my son getting into an altercation with a cop simply because he’s walking around with a hoodie at 6 pm during the winter when it’s dark. My son may be half-white but he’ll only be seen as a black man in the eyes of the law.

I’m tired of making excuses for black people and why they deserved what they got. Mike Brown didn’t deserve to get shot at 12 times. I don’t care if police are trained to empty their clip or if they’re supposed to shoot until a person goes down. I think that’s barbarous. That 12-year-old in Cleveland, Ohio, didn’t deserve to die. I don’t care if he chipped the paint off the toy gun to make it look real. He was TWELVE.

Minorities have a history of getting the short end of the stick:

  • “Oh, that black person was being an idiot to the cop so of course he got shot.”
  • “Oh, that woman was all over the man so of course she was asking to get raped.”
  • “Oh, that Latin American immigrant came into the country illegally so of course his American kids should get deported.”

When does it stop? Who polices the police? I wasn’t much on white privilege before Ferguson, but I guess I am now. White people are more likely to be in positions of power. Black people, to succeed, have to (quite frankly) kiss ass in ways that their white peers don’t.

My mom always told me that black people have to dress nicely and act properly in front of white people if they want to get anywhere. My mother was promoted to the head forewoman position at her job from being a CLEANING LADY. She doesn’t attribute it to her great work ethic (which she had) and great English (she’s got a strong French accent). She attributes it to the fact that she dressed properly and always acted politely in front of white people in positions of power.

You see, I play the game, too. Where a white person can walk into an interview with jeans and be a likely candidate, I have to dress up in a business suit, be articulate, and put on my A-game to get the job.

Oh wait, that’s not a fair comparison because anyone who walks in with jeans won’t get a job in a white-collar industry.

You’d be surprised.

I’ve had to work TWICE as hard as my white peers to succeed in academics and in my career.

I really don’t believe white people are the enemy. It may sound like it, but I don’t feel that way. (Drop in reference to white husband that validates my lack of racism) My sole point is that white people hold the upper hand on a lot of things. In ways they don’t even realize. I may not always identify with my black peers, but that doesn’t negative the fact that my skin color is still dark.

So I guess I believe that white privilege exists. And I don’t know how to change it. It’s been an institution in America since the 1700s. Maybe the first step in breaking down white privilege is accepting the fact that, if you are white in America — and I don’t care if you’re a redneck or live in Appalachia — you have advantages over black people.

I guess that’s it.

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  1. November 25, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    I grew up not in the slightest bit aware of the truth you have said: that white people hold the upper hand on a lot of things. I can say with a heavy heart that I am glad to no longer be blind to that, but that I am saddened our society reflects that truth. I hate to sound like I’m patting myself on the back (I’m not trying to), but I do what I can now. I cannot understand, I cannot walk in those shoes, but I can measure my actions, my preconceived notions, my words and responses. And more than that, I can do my best to open the eyes of the young people who sit in my classroom, not just to whatever privilege puts them on a firm footing, but to ways they can use that privilege to make the changes that will eliminate it as much as possible. It’s all I can do, but it’s what I must do. I hope that doesn’t sound all goody two-shoes or “enlightened.”

    Thank you for your words. Words like yours are the only way people like me, who don’t have that experience, can begin to think about what the experiences of other people are.

  2. November 25, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    Reblogged this on Chaos in Ferguson, Missouri and commented:
    I thought the civil rights movement was over a long time ago because I think it’s not worth the time and energy to do something stupid and later in life regret doing it.

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