Posts Tagged 'Race in America'

On Ferguson and silence

I have read a lot about Ferguson over the past couple of days and months.

There are some times, as a friend of mine wisely said on Facebook, that white people need to just shut up and listen.

I agree, I have and I am.

However, I also feel that, as a white person who benefits from the privileges denied to people of colour in American en masse, I should speak out, too.

Because silence can be read as complicity.

And I want to state, unequivocally, for whatever it is worth, that what happened was wrong. Darren Wilson shooting Mike Brown was wrong. The failure of the grand jury to hold him accountable was wrong. And that this injustice is part of a huge, terrifyingly racist legal system.

It is unjust, and appalling, and heartbreaking.

The American justice system does not afford Black people the same rights as white people. Police are taught to profile Black people and other people of colour. Prosecutors and judges mete out more severe punishments for non-white people. This is all part of a larger social and cultural infrastructure that oppresses Black people and people of colour – by restricting their education, their job opportunities, their healthcare, their lives.

People are kept in poverty, schools are neglected, and our culture finds a thousand ways to tell Black people what their roles are, what is expected of them – stereotypes abound, of the thuggish hoodie, the drug dealer, the thief. This culture makes it somehow ok, or permissible, or understandable, to see any Black person as life-threatening. As an enemy. As a combatant. As expendable.

It chokes something in me to write that there are white people, and clearly far to many, who struggle to see Black people as people, or who don’t even bother to struggle, who see only difference and inferiority and some grotesque innate barbarity – that the legacy of imperialism and slavery remains so much a part of our everyday life when its injustice is so painfully clear.

People die. People are killed because these structures not just allow but encourage the view that Black people are somehow less – less important, less valuable, less human. That is what is barbaric.

And I do not have a voice loud enough to scream that this is not ok. That this is a moral failure of such magnitude that I cannot find the words for it.

More than anything, I want to aver that grief and rage are completely appropriate responses. It is an insult to basic humanity to insist on ‘calm’. A huge group of people are not just told but shown, repeatedly, by the powers that be, that their lives, their children’s lives, don’t matter. That the loss of these lives is not worth protesting. That there is no recompense. That there is no justice.

Of course rage is an appropriate response to being told you and yours do not matter.

I am only one person. I cannot dismantle an entire system or mete out justice, as much as I wish I could. But I can say that this, as often and as loudly as I can: all of this is deeply, fundamentally, morally wrong.

And that it matters to me.

It should matter to everyone.

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