I’ve studiously avoided writing about the shooting death in Ferguson, MO of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and apparently unarmed, by a white policeman, mostly out of a desire not just to repeat, or refute, what others have said. What’s indisputable, however, is that Americans are divided racially on the shooting.
Some (seriously) blame President Obama because he hasn’t brought that “post-racial” country they were expecting, which they believe he promised. In fact, almost every time he’s attempted to talk about racial issues, it has not gone well with a good chunk of the American public.
So I don’t want to discuss the particulars of Brown’s shooting (six times, including twice to the head), because this merely instigates the scapegoating phenomenon; Michael Brown was not the perfect victim, so we’ll attack Michael Brown, or Trayvon Martin, or whatever dead black kid is currently in the news. (Want to find an innocent, dead, black kid? See, e.g., John Crawford III, who on August 5, 2014, “was gunned down in an Ohio Walmart after customers saw him walking around with a ‘weapon’, which turned out to be an air rifle he picked up in the store.”)
I might want to mention the way police procedures have changed in the past couple of decades. For instance: New Report Exposes Growing Militarization of American Policing; also, 4 Reasons the Police Are Suddenly Terrifying and Rise of the Warrior Cop Plus It’s Perfectly Legal To Film The Cops. As usual, John Oliver has a solution to the problem.
And even white kids can get killed by cops in America: 20 Year Old Executed by Police, Allegedly for Wearing Headphones, Unable to Hear Orders. Whereas Iceland grieved after the police killed a man for the first time in its history last year.
What finally crystallized things for me was a comment a friend of mine made recently. She has three friends, all white women, married to men of color. They are finding themselves in that position of having to participate in “having the talk” with their mixed-raced children. And they are, to a woman, feeling ill-equipped to discuss it, because the narrative is not based on their own experience.
Listen to How Do You Have ‘The Talk’ with Your Black Child If You’re not Black Yourself? It’s about seven and a half minutes long.
To the broader issue, read Different Rules Apply and I Finally “Get” White Privilege and I’m Sorry. Because sometimes it takes a white dude to talk about racism. Or a white woman to do so.
Assuming, of course, they can. The Atlantic suggests that self-segregation – white people mostly talking to white people – makes it so hard for them to understand Ferguson and other issues on the racial divide.
Still, black people talking about systemic injustice towards them is far stronger when yoked with white voices joining in. It has always been thus, at least in America. Just, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, men supporting women’s equality, and straight people promoting gay rights frankly provide the sense that it’s not just “their” issue”, “their” problem”, it’s OURS.