“Let’s stop believing that our differences make us superior or inferior to one another” – Don Miguel Ruiz
Over the last month, amidst the violence and heightened racial and political tensions in the United States, I went against my own advice and did a foolish thing. I knew it was a foolish thing. I’d advised friends against doing the same and laughed at the consequences when they refused to listen to me. But for one whole week I ignored my own words.
So there I was going through my Facebook timeline reading people’s opinions about Black Lives Matter and racism in America. I watched the argument from both sides. I tried to stay out of people’s comment sections in an attempt to avoid the back-and-forth conversations that would ultimately lead nowhere. I struggled to keep myself from pointing out the weaknesses and where their reasoning had failed them. The ease with which some people take words out of context or try to draw correlations between unrelated beliefs or events is ridiculous.
So there I was engaged in a friend’s Facebook comments section for what felt like the 6th time that week. They felt that the Black Lives Matter protesters were wrong and they didn’t agree with the movement blah blah blah. I was just there to give facts and numbers and then it hit me! I finally realized that they didn’t care what I had to say. This was what they believed. And somewhere along the line belief became confused with fact. There is one argument, however, that I have come to take an issue with over time. That is the “what about the statistic that 52% of all murders are committed by blacks since they’re 13% of the population” which is a derivative of crowd-favorite “what about black on black crime?”
I take issue with that phrase because it’s a surface-level counter that treats black people as a monolith that ignores the problems in our society. It ignores the hard, persevering work of men and women that have sacrificed their lives to find a solution to these problems of violence in places like Chicago. It ignores the long-term effects that segregation and Jim Crow laws had on African Americans communities. It ignores the situations that have put people of color in these circumstances of poverty and low-funding that can be directly related to these acts of violence. I have a problem with that argument because it’s a way of saying that “we react the way that we do to black people because they are inherently violent and dangerous and don’t know any better.” And that’s a sad, infuriating thought. The same people making that argument feel that they would be fine, happy and peaceful if they lived under the same conditions as the black people that they are quick to condemn.
So here we are, deep in 2016 where it’s clear that a lot of people actually do not know what racism is. Where Charles Barkley can be given a show by TNT to discuss race relations in America. The lack of nuance shown by the public in such a delicate, sensitive, complicated topic baffles me but alas, here we are.
So I leave you with these words of wisdom and levity. Read. Learn. Look at data. Read analysis reports. Educate yourself. But stay away from Facebook. I’m warning you. Those streets aren’t safe. It’s wild and reckless out there. I beg you. For your own safety and peace of mind.