The Chasm

As we watch, this nation sinks deeper and deeper into a pit of false narratives, confabulation and outright lies. We watch as men are murdered on the street by those sworn to ‘protect and serve.’

Ahmaud Arbery, 25 years old gunned down on the street in daylight 23 February 2020

Manuel Ellis, 33 years old restrained and beaten to death on the street by police 3 March 2020

Breonna Taylor, 26 years old shot 8 times in her bed by the police 13 March 2020

George Floyd, 46 years old choked on the street by a knee to the neck 25 May 2020

Those are the names we know in the space of 92 days; these are not the only names; these are the names we are hyper-aware of today.  George Floyd was our wick, lighting the flame of our shared outrage.

I have struggled for days on how to write this. I am not a Black American; I cannot write from that perspective as I do not have that lived experience. All I can do is write from my own deeply felt beliefs. Ultimately, what finally set the groundwork was two different perspectives, one from a younger sister and one from a long time and dear friend. Each of their comments caused me pause and thought, each of them has very different life experiences, to one I owe an apology and with the other, I continue to debate.

“I think black people suffer from Generational PTSD and I recently came to realize that I suffer from it as a Black Man living the black experience in America”

“What are you willing to give up to assure justice, equality and an end to racism?”

My immediate and visceral response to the second is ‘nothing’; it is a zero-sum game. This response infuriates my sister and all her social media activist followers. I understand their fury. Let me try to unwind this as far as I am able.

White Privilege is something new to our lexicon to describe the unearned opportunity those born to their ‘Whiteness’ enjoy. Though this has been a field of study for decades, it did not become a broadly discussed phenomenon until 2014 when Black Lives Matter begin to use it widely.

Is every interaction between a White person and a Black person going to end badly? Of course not. Does every aggressive interaction have its roots in racism? No, some are simply two people with an issue to resolve. The truth is sometimes, bad acts are only bad acts and ugly merely is ugly.

Why do we get so offended by the White Woman in the park calling the police on the Black Man watching birds or asking her to put her dog on the leash? Why do we get so offended by the White Man demanding proof of the Black Man’s residency in that building?  Why are we so offended by the White Woman demanding the Hispanic Woman speak English in the checkout line? We are offended because, after 400-years of pathological inequalities and racial bias, we only have one way to understand them. We only have one way to hear the 9-1-1 call with the description of the Black Man or the Black Woman, despite this is an accurate description, we hear Racial Bias and we also know there is decades police bias on the other end of that call.

Tamir Rice was a 12-year old boy when he was murdered in the park within two-seconds of the police arriving after a 9-1-1 call on 23-November-2014. All of the media surrounding his murder by police tried to paint Tamir as bigger than his age, thus a threat, the toy gun he was playing with somehow manipulated to appear ‘real.’ Later, the media painted his parents as violent criminals, leading to the conclusion that his murder was both their and his own fault. The truth is, the man who made the call identified him as an African American in the park, pointing a gun at random people, he also identified him as a ‘probably’ a juvenile and the weapon as ‘probably’ fake. Ultimately his murder was deemed justified by a Grand Jury, despite the cop who pulled the trigger had lied on his application having previously been found not emotionally fit for duty by another police force.

Why is Tamir’s story important?

He was a child murdered by police; we, White People, accepted his murder; we did not mourn him as we should have. We did not demand justice for this young boy, as we should have. We accepted as reasonable the murder by police of a young African American boy in the park while playing with a toy gun.  We failed, abysmally, to demand justice for so many other young Black men in the proceeding years leading up to the murder of Tamir. We, White People, did not look at these murders and ask ourselves, ‘if these were my child, would I be as passive as I am today because it is theirs?’

That acceptance, the lack of concern is the true measure of White Privilege.

We failed to listen to the weeping of the mothers and fathers of these dead children and we failed to mourn with them.

With the murder of George Floyd, we are offended, perhaps even outraged. I think we are still trying to smooth out the issue of Racism in Mr. Floyd’s murder. But finally, we are unable to ignore the truth that 400-years of systemic injustice done to our fellow man within the borders of our nation led to the murder of George Floyd.

So why do I say I am unwilling to give up anything?

I do not want to see all of us with ‘less than,’ instead, I want to see all of us with more. If there is a privilege I have that another does not have, tell me what it is I will work without rest to ensure it is no longer mine alone. If there is a wall we need to tear down, let’s do it together, systemic racism exists; the majority of us know it now; it is visible and cannot be ignored. We should not be poorer when the fight is done; we should all be richer. This is why I say I will not give up anything; I want my friends, my brothers and sisters to have what I have not less than but precisely what I have. I want there to be no light between us.

Will it be a fight?

Yes, of course. There will always be those who fear the change that will come. There will always be those who hate; it is not possible to change hearts with laws. But for me? I don’t want to give up a damn thing; I want there to be no question of equality. The truth, it is not possible to change 400-years of history; it is not possible to wipe out original sins with apologies, gifts, or money. Nothing will change history; we can though change our future.  We can demand new and better laws. We can demand investments where there has been none before. We can unwind anything that prevents a future free of systemic racism and begin the process of education inclusive of real history. We can make racism so painful to those who practice it they will slowly become a pariah in our communities, unhirable and ultimately without friends or support systems.

What can we do? We can demand justice. We can listen. We can be allies. If it is the last thing we do, let’s use our White Privilege to demand change in our systems and ensure our neighbors, friends and family enjoy the same privilege we unwittingly enjoy. What can we do today? We can speak up when we see something. We can demand our elected officials do the right thing rather than what is convenient. Ultimately, we can vote. Remove those in office at every level high and low; local, state and federal who stand in the way of change.

That is what we can do, individually and together, we are the change.

Comments

  1. well done, Lady Valentine…

  2. Yes, we all have something we can do to make it better for all of us. Well written, Val.

Talk Back, Try Civility

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: