As my Facebook feed suggests, you might be weary or skeptical of #blacklivesmatter. You may just NOT want to discuss race. Or, you may be utterly outraged by the police shootings in Dallas. Or, you just don’t understand because “black people seem to be doing this to themselves."
You are probably white, because most of my Facebook friends are.
Of course, all lives matter. Of course the violence experienced in pockets of our country should evoke a feeling that “it’s a humanity thing” because we have a moral obligation to care about one another. We have a moral obligation to dig a little deeper, beyond any hashtag fatigue and try to understand why it's important for white people to talk about race and racism and what it means to be black in America today.
Please realize that #blacklivesmatter is intentionally specific to black people. It is about society generally disregarding an entire group of people and what happens to them. In many instances, those people find themselves at the center of poverty, violence and barely-there education. Those people are black. It’s a black thing. And, if the idea of what it’s like to be black comes from your TV or what you read (it does for me, because I don’t have a bunch of African American friends or colleagues) then you might need to reevaluate the situation.
In Chicago, for example, our violent crime is an overwhelmingly (80%) black thing. There are policies that could help immediately, and white people make those policies. White people control the news we receive. White people control the police departments. While police violence is not the sole focus of #blacklivesmatter, recent events are making the situation significantly worse.
When a community no longer trusts the people there to protect and serve them, they take matters into their own hands. It's a complex problem for sure, but white people have to actually care about solving it or we can't get anywhere. Schools are closing and jobs are scarce. When people feel they have nothing to lose, we have violence. That's not helping anyone, back white or otherwise.
This year alone, we have 2070 shootings and 344 murders. 266 of those victims were black. 60 Hispanic and 17 white. Included in the shot-but-lived category, we have a 12 year olds with toy guns, toddlers shot in the face by a stray bullet holding dad’s hand, people shot through their living room windows, people at the store buying milk and funeral goers. These people are shot here at a rate of 1 every 2 minutes and someone is murdered every 13. You would never know it as a white person, because the chances of you finding yourself in one of the hyper-afflicted neighborhoods is slim to none.
The incidence of neighborhood violence is up 54% this year. And, it would seem much of that has to do with the severely damaged relationship between law enforcement and these communities. Police and medical response is two to three times longer than in other areas, and few witnesses to crimes are willing to testify for fear that the police will not and cannot protect them. Thusly, there are fewer arrests and convictions.
Add the last few killings at the hands of police and the dead officers in Dallas to the mix and the situation escalates quickly. Black people are three (3) times as likely to be killed by a police officer and fewer than 1 in 3 black people killed by police were suspected of a violent crime and allegedly armed. That is an alarming statistic.
The more the police and the communities they serve fear each other, the easier it is to pull a trigger ... for everyone. I would never diminish the losses of the officers in Dallas (or anywhere else for that matter). What happened yesterday in Dallas is absolutely sickening. But it is apparent to me that Alton Sterling and Philando Castille would still be alive if they were white. Shooting someone at point blank range while in handcuffs, or while they are explaining to you that they have a concealed carry permit or while their child is in the backseat – so very, very unlikely to happen to a white person. The fear of being killed by a public servant during a traffic stop for a busted tail light is not a white person fear.
One African American woman (friend of a friend) wrote that she was deeply hurt by the comment “black people wouldn’t get killed if they behaved at a traffic a stop.” She said:
“This behavior is not just. It's not. I am angry. And fearful. And I assume if you've never had a beer bottle thrown at you and called the n word or had a cop whisper in your ear "you'd better watch your back while you walk home". then I think it's hard to understand how this post is so hurtful. I am NOT anti-cop. At all. I'm anti trained, employed officials shooting people at point blank range. Those former incidents have happened to me in small and big cities and because of that, when things that happen like this, I am raw. Protect and serve. Not kill first, serve later. I don't understand. I don't.”
The empowered people need to effectively sponsor those without power. Sponsorship is effective. Take women in the workplace for example. We know that women cannot rise through the ranks to nab management positions and board seats without effective sponsorship from male colleagues and superiors. Sponsorship can start with something as simple as sending the signal that you care.
So, I choose to NOT get sick of the “this race or that race” conversation because that is exactly the conversation we need to be having. Besides, I can’t get sick of a cause that is simply asking me, a white woman, to care.