It’s the year 2019, and we are still having this same debate. No matter how many times we hash this out, we will undoubtedly do the same thing again sometime in the near future. That’s just what we do as Americans. We keep doing the same stupid things over and over without learning from our past to make our futures better.
Racism has no ideology. It has no political leanings either. It is as much a founding principle of America as the Constitution itself. Racism was written into our founding documents and formed the basis of many of our laws and court decisions. To pretend that it’s not a major issue is nothing more than trying to fool yourself into believing that the sun does not rise.
From Gov. Ralph Northam’s photo to the implicit bias that affects racial disparities in policing, racism colors how we act among ourselves and how we treat others who are different from us. There’s no reason to continue to tap dance around the issue any longer, so I’ll give my view on how I perceive all these incidents. You can call it blacksplaining if you wish.
Personally, a blackface incident in 1984 is something that should have never occurred. In 1984, people knew that blackface was offensive. Even if you’re within the company of your own friends, you should never engage in something that damn offensive much less allow someone to take a picture of you doing this. That’s plain damn stupid.
At the same time, if you have voted for or otherwise supported an elected official or political party that condones displays of racist tendencies and attitudes in 2018, you need to STFU with condemnation of an act from 1984 if you’re not doing the same thing for the 2018 acts. Since you’re a supporter of the 2018 actor(s), then you’re obviously not condemning their acts and the STFU clause applies in full.
Not to paint a broad brush, but many of us black people know that folks exhibit racist tendencies or actions at time. That even includes people who are associates or even best friends of ours. That’s human nature at work. We are capable of perceiving the difference between someone doing or saying something stupid and otherwise being a decent person vs a complete and utter racist a**hole who doesn’t give a crap about us or our lives. There is a very distinct difference between those two. When your sanity and sometimes survival relies on your instincts picking up those difference, you tend to become very adept at sensing racists and racism. As John Blake wrote in a CNN opinion piece, “Some of the biggest champions for black people in America’s past have been white politicians who were racists.”
At one time or another, we have all said or done something that could be offensive to someone of a different race. We don’t always know what offends other people, so it’s virtually impossible to go through life without offending someone at least once. So, if you’re sitting there smug within yourself thinking that you’ve never said or done something that may be racially offensive, then you’re doing nothing more than lying to yourself.
We, as Americans know that racism is a problem.
Yet, many of us refuse to take the necessary steps to avoid stepping into the same pile of dog feces and re-enacting this same conversation time and time again. I’m not suggesting that we wipe out racists or racism because I honestly do not believe that is humanly possible. What we need to do instead is use these incidents to discuss ways to curtail our latent tendencies to avoid stepping into the same pile of feces over and over.
Let’s learn to love ourselves and those around us. Do not allow people to goad you into hating an entire group of people over the actions of a bad actor or two. That’s basically how racism grows. One black man doing something bad does not mean that all black men are the same way. One white man saying or doing something bad does not mean that all white men are the same way. Don’t lose sight of the fact that racism also extends beyond the black/white paradigm too. Asians, Native Americans, and others also shoulder the burden of racial animosity as well. Let’s learn to treat each other as individuals and not stereotypes. Then, let’s teach that to the next generation so they can teach their kids as well.
Update 2/5/19 8:15pm EST:
After watching ABC Nightly News, I had two additional trains of thought that I needed to add here, so forgive me in making this post longer than it already was. I believe these thoughts pair well with a discussion on racism and how we, as a country, are loath to deal with the issues head on.
Today would have been Trayvon Benjamin Martin’s 24th birthday if he were still alive. People wrongly associate George Zimmerman’s defense with the Stand Your Ground law, but his defense did not invoke that law at all. However, what you never hear anyone mention is that Trayvon also had the right to stand his ground in self-defense with someone stalking him while he was walking home from the store. Why does one get the presumption of the law while the victim does not? That’s how discretely bias works in human psyche.
In a separate case, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced that the Hoover, AL police officer who shot and killed Emantic Fitzgerald “EJ” Bradford Jr. will not face any charges as a result of his actions. I expected the shooting to be deemed as a justified shooting, but that still doesn’t undo the sometimes heavy-handed response that officers have when suspected perpetrators are black. There have been numerous studies on implicit bias and how it affects policing. Implicit bias shows up in several forms and is not exclusive to race only.
I know it often boils down to a training issue, but it boils my blood to see innocent people like Bradford, Crawford, Rice, Scott, and others die unnecessarily at the hands of police while other people have committed mass killings of innocent people and are captured alive, often without any injury at all. As long as we continue to ostrich this stuff because we’re not personally affected, the trends will continue. As a sworn officer myself, I understand the split second decision-making issue that’s compounded by the stress of the situation. We cannot allow that to be a crutch when we have scientific evidence of an existing problem with the decision-making process, and we can use that evidence to slow the trend of innocent citizens being killed. We owe it to ourselves and our kids.
Second and final update 2/5/19 8:30pm EST:
Liam Neeson should be praised for his brutal honesty involving race, IMHO. Instead, he’s being castigated for being open enough to say out loud what many others have thought to themselves. People need to take an extra minute to consider his entire story before going all Samuel L. Jackson angry at him. When you take in the totality of the circumstances, there are several lessons to be learned.
Yes, he went out seeking a chance to unleash holy hell on a black person to get revenge for someone close to him being attacked. What people fail to consider is that, by his own admission, he walked around for a week in areas where he expected to be confronted with a situation where he could “defend” himself against a black man. Yet, an entire week went by without a single, solitary black man doing anything to him that would give him an excuse to beat someone down.
*Housekeeping note: I’ll try to post as I can for the near future. I changed shifts, and I won’t always have the time to keep fresh sheets on the bed. I’ll do what I can to counter the moderated posts as well.