Yesterday, I read a blog post calling for white people to use their privilege and speak up about racial violence. Okay, so here goes.
I have been sickened lately by all the violence by police against black people who haven’t done anything wrong.
I have also been sickened by the pushback against Black Lives Matter. The proponents of BLM say they’re being misunderstood. See their actual principles here: 11 Major Misconceptions about the Black Lives Matter Movement and What We Believe
This answers the charges, among others, that they hate white people and are anti-police.
Also, in the past week, I have heard African-Americans on Larry Willmore (and possibly The Daily Show) say that they’re not against the police. They believe that most police are good people trying to serve and protect, but there is a problem with a significant minority who are racially motivated against black people, and with procedures which allow excessive force. They need to be dealt with and police procedures need to be looked at critically, to see what needs to be changed. Even Amnesty International says that American police procedures do not align with international standards.
Instead, I’m hearing–on Willmore, for example–that Black Lives Matter does NOT say that ONLY black lives matter. It’s actually, “black lives matter ALSO.” Because of slavery, which still has repercussions today despite being abolished 150 years ago, there is a unique relationship between blacks and the police which makes blacks feel as if their lives don’t matter. They’re trying to make everyone understand that their lives matter just as much as everybody else’s, NOT that they matter more than anybody else’s.
I grew up in a city of 100,000, in which people of various races were my classmates, teachers, principals, friends. I now live in a city which is predominantly white. When I moved here 21 years ago to be with my husband, the sight of anyone of color (other than Hmongs) was highly unusual. Even pickaninny statues could still be seen openly displayed on lawns! (See article here.) I also still find people using the term “colored people,” which has been taboo at least as long as I’ve been alive (and I’m in my 40s).
I have also heard accounts of little black children being told by other children, “I’m not allowed to play with you because you’re black.” Not only did I hear this from my ex-friend, whose stepdaughter is mixed race and was told this at school in 2008, but the newspaper reported this happening to another girl at the Children’s Museum just a couple of years ago!
Over the years, minorities have been moving in. Racism is here, but if you point it out, people get all offended and say, “I’m not racist!” When a newspaper article pointed out the racism of the pickaninny statues, people said, “If you’re offended by statues, YOU’RE the one with the problem/psychological issues.”
Today’s newspaper had an article–not about the Dallas shooting, since actual news is rare in anything run by Gannett these days–but about people responding to the Dallas shooting. It started with describing a walk in Oshkosh to show solidarity with police officers and unity in the community. Which is all well and good, and I’m not knocking that.
But as I read on in the article, I found a disturbing trend as local GOP politicians threw in their two cents: dog whistles blaming black people for the violence against police, while ignoring the senseless violence against two black men last week, and the issues which are driving black people to protest. No, they never came out and directly named Black Lives Matter, but you could catch the inferences in this comment by Sen. Ron Johnson:
“Five of the finest among us, slaughtered,” Johnson said during a campaign stop in Green Bay. “Let’s be clear: there’s a movement … there are political figures in this country that are stoking the fires of people that are actually putting targets on the back of men and women who serve this country trying to keep our streets safe. This has got to end. We need political leaders that are looking for areas of agreement to unify us; to heal these divisions as opposed to exploit them.”
Essentially, blaming the protestors for the violence. Yes, it is horrible that five police officers were slaughtered, quite likely good people just doing their jobs. But along with them, what about the fine black men who were slaughtered last week for not doing anything wrong?
State Rep. David Steffen, R-Howard, said he will introduce legislation to make targeting police officers a hate crime.
“I strongly believe that anyone who targets these brave men and women, solely because of their profession, should face serious penalties,” Steffen said in a news release. “This legislation sends a clear message that the despicable attacks we’ve seen against officers throughout the country will not be tolerated in Wisconsin.”
Fine and good, but how about also introducing legislation to make it a hate crime for a police officer to kill a black man for reaching for his ID?
It is good to support the police, yes. In fact, one of my beefs with my ex-friend was him saying we should no longer have police, period, and let us all just defend ourselves with guns. (He’s half-white, and looks white, so I don’t give him the kind of pass I would for a black person complaining about police.) I mourn when a police officer is shot in the line of duty, or slaughtered by someone with a vendetta.
But we also need to actually address the problems which keep leading to unarmed and innocent black people being gunned down. Or even if they’re not innocent, excessive police force which leads to death rather than the person going to jail and being properly tried.
What disturbed me about the newspaper article was that the only ones addressing that side were Russ Feingold (Russ 2016!!!) and the president of the Milwaukee NAACP.
I don’t think most people in this state are consciously racist. Many are not racist at all. It seems to be an ingrained racism where you don’t even realize it exists.
I’ve encountered such things in myself, and work to root them out wherever I find them. I tell my son, everybody has racist/prejudiced attitudes of some kind, so if we’re defensive when somebody points it out, we don’t learn anything. We have to be willing to address it.