I’m wading through all of my newsfeeds and social media feeds. I’m trying to find solace from seeing that my friends are as upset as I am about the events of Ferguson, but to frank, I am not finding that.
Part of it is being upset with myself. I wish I had more courage. I wish I was in Ferguson right now. I wish I had the courage to say this is more important than my career. I wish I had the courage to say this is more important than saving money. I wish I had the courage to say this is more important than not getting arrested for a just cause. But I don’t. I needed to be better. But I wasn’t. And now I fear it is too late. I will continue to try and do more in the future, but I know that it won’t make a difference in my lifetime. Like Moses and MLK, we will not see us get to the promised land.
Leading up to this, there was a good part of the nation who refused to see the Ferguson situation for what it was – plain and simple racism. No really. It’s quite obvious actually. It is baffling to me how people, including some of you who are reading this right now – people that I consider my friends – can come to such a different understanding as to what has happened and is happening now. Now I know that because of my chosen educational path that I’ve studied and read about race than most people.1 But I don’t think that even matters with the Michael Brown case. Or the Amadou Diallo case. Or the Oscar Grant case. Or the John Crawford case. Or the Tamir Rice case. How much education do we need to understand that cops are gunning down black people with impunity and without any consequences? How high does the number of dead black people need to get to before people suspect something is wrong? 1000 people? 2000 people? 10,000 people?
Most of us have access to the same information on the internet, the same statistics, the same training in how to draw logical conclusions from evidence. Yet somehow, I wade through comment after comment of people defending law enforcement’s record, defending the practice of state sponsored murder because it supposedly makes us safer? People like to claim ignorance as the source of racism, but really, you would have to be astronomically unintelligent to think that this is all justified. No, many of you willfully ignore all of the information we have and tell me that I’m playing the race card or being oversensitive or too politically correct. I suppose I could be wrong and that a lot of you are actually the gigantic ignoramuses that your rhetoric on this stuff indicates. But alas, I know that this is not the case. I know that most of you are actually pretty smart and know how to use reason and logic to make informed decisions, but choose to ignore this so that tragic and unjust events can fit into your fucked up worldview.
I want to be very clear on this next point. The failure to see the problem is a moral failing. This is not a matter of different orientations but having the same goal. If you do not see the problem or deny the problem, then you are on the other side. If you think this was an unavoidable tragedy, if you think that rioting or looting is not justified, you have failed morally. If you believe in God, you are sinning.
And this is what makes the saddest. I have lost faith in people. I have lost faith in our country. I honestly think a lot of you, of us do not have it in us to do the right thing. There is a good number of you reading this who will never understand nor care about the grave injustices that occur everyday to good people. There is nothing I or anyone can do because when it comes down to it, you would rather kill black people, you would rather let innocent people live their lives in the most terrifying state of fear than simply admit that you are wrong about how race works in America. As I said before, everything is laid out before us. You can choose to recognize the problem and seek to find out more about why this is happening, or you can choose to allow more innocent people to die. In fact, you elect officials because you know that they will ensure that this will continue to happen. And honestly, it’s this way with a lot of things. US foreign policy, climate change, hell even just raising taxes a tiny bit for the top 1% so that people can eat. Way too many of us have chosen evil. And the bitch of all this is that it is not even that hard to do the right thing. Read some books, look up some statistics on the prison system, and just have some basic empathy for your fellow human beings. That’s all you have to do. All you have to do is not be an asshole. But there are too many of us who can’t do even that. Who won’t do that. Who will keep on being an asshole, because it benefits them to be an asshole. And that’s pretty much all there is to this country, a bunch of racist assholes.
Believe me, I really want to be wrong on this one. In fact, I’m begging you, please prove me wrong on this. I went to the rally in Santa Barbara. I walked the streets with the protesters, and I chanted the slogans with everyone else. But I saw the way people not participating looked at us – the annoyed frown because they had to wait a little longer to get through an intersection. The bemused condescending look on their face telling me that I was naïve and incapable of changing anything. And most of all, the look on the cops faces – in their full riot gear, hands gripped tightly on their night sticks and gun holsters, just waiting for someone to slip up so they can administer a beatdown.2 Luckily no one slipped up last night, but really that just seems incidental. There is no way to avoid the fact that someone somewhere will eventually slip up and a cop will make them pay for it with their lives whether or not they deserved it. And this will happen on a regular basis.
I think in the past I would have attempted to try and explain in layman’s terms the sociological concepts that are related to what is happening. Maybe even comment on how the events have been mediated through popular culture. But instead I wrote this rambling mess of an essay for two reasons. The first reason is that I know that even having it spelled out for you like a fucking kindergartner, you will still dismiss me, and the experience of the millions of people of color who have been trying to tell you this for their whole lives. The second and more important reason is I don’t like you enough anymore to try.
- Let me take this opportunity to point out despite the fact that virtually all people who study race as their primary occupation agree that institutional racism exists and especially with the way it plays out with law enforcement results in a disproportionate amount of dead black people, a lot of you think you know more about race than these experts [↩]
- Really people, this is fucking Santa Barbara. A couple of patrol cars and maybe 10 officers would have been more than enough [↩]