I know I’ve been doing it more lately, but I don’t often write about political or even, really, newsworthy things here on my blog.
That isn’t because I’m not tuned in to what’s happening in the world.
Just the opposite, actually.
I try to keep myself VERY informed on what’s happening out there and those things make my heart and my head hurt, so I come to the blog world as a respite from all the terrible.
Recently, there were three high-profile events where police shot suspects. You know about those events. You know the names. I declined to comment on any of them here or elsewhere on social media because I hadn’t heard any details other than the race of the officers and the victims/suspects. And that there were partial videos of at least one of the incidents.
One of my friends, who lives in Ireland, shared a story on Facebook and added the comment that it was “Yet another white police officer who doesn’t believe a black man’s life is worth anything.”
That’s when I got PISSED.
Because it may very well be true that the cop that shot Charles Kinsey was a total racist asshole who was out to hurt and/or kill black people.
OR, there may have been other factors that we don’t know about yet because the whole thing had happened only a few hours or maybe a day before and we didn’t have ANY facts, let alone all of them.
I don’t know exactly when or how it happened.
I grew up learning about how horribly racist people in our country used to be. From slavery to the Civil Rights Movement, our country didn’t have a pristine history of race relations in the United States. I mean, the ENTIRE HISTORY of humankind consists of people oppressing each other for every possible reason imaginable, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re talking about the United States.
Anyway, when I was a kid, and on up through high school and into college, I never really thought much about race. It’s not like I didn’t notice that my friends had different racial and ethnic backgrounds. I had friends from Mexico and Jamaica and China. They were from different backgrounds, but they weren’t different from me. We were still people. With opinions and hopes and dreams and struggles and opportunities. It never occurred to me that any of them might be treated differently by the rest of the world for any reason other than that they were so much smarter and better than me.
That’s still my view of race and ethnicity to this day. Yes, I see that people have different skin tones and colors. And I know people come from different countries and I love that. I love hearing peoples’ stories and learning about where they come from and what their life is like. But when it comes down to it, we’re not all that different.
And, look, I’m not an idiot. I’m not a Pollyanna, life-is-great-for-everyone-all-the-time kind of girl. I KNOW there is still a LOT of racism in the world. If there’s one thing this election has taught me, it’s that there are still a lot of racist assholes out there. And they aren’t all strangers to me.
And I also know that the majority of people who will read this post will shrug it off as dripping with “white privilege” (more on THAT topic another day).
But here’s the thing.
Yes. I agree that racism exists. All over the place.
But I am fed up with the false notion that EVERY negative thing that happens between two people of different races happens BECAUSE one of them is racist.
That just isn’t always the case.
Sometimes things happen because people are just terrible in general. Sometimes things happen accidentally. And sometimes the entire thing is a misunderstanding. And yes, sometimes things happen because of racism.
But when we jump to the assumption that EVERYTHING is racist, it actually diminishes the argument instead of boosting it. It’s very much like the boy who cried wolf. When you claim things are racist that aren’t racist, two things happen. 1) it takes away attention from actual incidents of racism and 2) it makes racism look normal and like it’s really not that big a deal.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but those both sound like the opposite of what should be happening.
The whole point to all of this is simple. Whenever something happens, let’s all take a collective breath. Let’s pause a minute and wait for some answers. And THEN proceed in the most productive way.
We can’t just react. We need to know what we’re reacting to. And respond appropriately. And get mad when anger is right and remain calm when anger isn’t the best choice.
We need to stop losing our heads and freaking out. Because that is the real reason lasting change is happening so slowly. It’s very difficult to sort out what needs to be fixed first when everyone is screaming about everything.
Calm down. Let’s figure this out together.