How To Discuss Race With Black People: FAQ Part 3 — Advanced
You understand what black people mean by Racism, you understand that having latent racism called out isn’t an indictment but an opportunity for personal growth and increased empathy.
At this point, you’ve realized that acknowledging your privilege doesn’t mean that you are evil, nor does it mean that you have not struggled, worked hard or experienced hardship. You feel less defensive and no longer feel the need to take it personally when black people speak about the pain they have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of White Supremacy in America.
You understand why appeals to black on black crime as a rebuttal to claims of police brutality are not reasonable and you are more aware of how police and media can control the narrative of conflict.
Now, with a certainty that you will not stumble into the novice’s pitfalls, you are really listening to what black people are saying. But still… you have some questions.
Q: What about these FBI reports that say that black people proportionally commit more crime than white people? I mean that’s data, right? Not racism.
A: No worries. That’s completely understandable. I mean when you look at those breakdowns by race it sure looks like black people commit a whole lot of crime per capita more than white people…
Until you look closer. What many people fail to recognize (willfully or ignorantly) is that these statistics do not represent the amount of crime committed by race. They merely indicate the race of people arrested for crimes.
So let’s think about this. There’s a clear indication that a black person is significantly more likely to be arrested than a white person due to the fact that black communities are more heavily policed than white communities. So if we recognize that this imbalance exists, we realize that a breakdown of ARRESTS will reflect this imbalance.
Next, the stats don’t count the number of people arrested, just the number of arrests. So 100 arrests can represent a pattern of harrassment against 10 people or it could represent repeated legitimate arrests of 5 people.
Also, being arrested is not the same as being guilty. That’s purportedly the reason we have trials. So a count of arrests is not a count of crimes committed.
Finally, the FBI reports are incomplete. Police VOLUNTARILY contribute their reports to the FBI, and any data validity problems on the local scale bubble up to the aggregate counts.
All of this should be tempered with the understanding that many factors contribute to crime and subsequent arrest rates.
Tl;dr FBI data is incomplete, reflects racial arrest bias and says nothing about the criminality of black people.
Q: A lot of famous black people are saying that racism isn’t really a problem anymore. They succeeded, why shouldn’t we take their word for it over yours?
A: Yeah. That’s totally confusing. And i can understand why it would be really comforting to take them at their word. I mean if there are black people denying white supremacy, then maybe everyone else is just being melodramatic, and you can go to sleep confident that nothing is actually needed of you.
Here’s the thing. Not all black people experience Racism in the same way. Not all black people experience racism to the same degree. Not all black people are conscious of much of the Racism that exists in America because so much of it is normalized.
Think about this. A movie with no black characters in it is not considered a “white” movie. It is simply considered “a movie” it is presumed to be relatable to all audiences. A movie with all black characters in it is considered a “black movie” and is presumed to only appeal to black audiences. Generally, in order for a “black movie” to become a movie it must have a white protagonist to give white people a person to relate to.
This sort of Racism is deeply entrenched in American psyches, regardless of race. The pressure to assimilate to white culture is strong. Subsequently many black people do not recognize these elements of society as products of white supremacy. Just like Neo in the Matrix (see how I tied this to a white guy for you?), many black people experience a process of becoming “woke” and conscious to the way that Racism is deeply woven into the fabric of American society.
When a black person is upwardly mobile, this generally thrusts them into a world increasingly devoid of other black people. Because one’s economic and professional peers are now more likely to be white, one’s perspectives are more likely to be influenced directly by white people. Because most white people are like you, harboring no active resentment against individual black people, the feeling of Racism may not be so intense.
White people will often “compliment” a middle class or educated black person as “One of the good ones”, the implication being that it’s not black people they don’t like, just the majority of undesirable blacks whose culture and language they look down upon with disdain. This acceptance can be internalized, giving an upwardly mobile black person the notion that they’re doing blackness correctly and if everyone else would just do the same, there’d be no race problem.
Furthermore, when one is particularly famous either through politics or entertainment media, their livelihood, appeal and ability to interact effectively with white people (who by and large control money and opportunity) depend on not rocking the boat so much. It is in their best interest to support the narrative that we live in a post racial America.
Tl;dr Their success may shield them from it or their paychecks depend on a post-racial America. Either way. How many of them ARE there? Thought so.
Q: Why do black people get so touchy when I bring up Dr. Martin Luther King? He’s a great role model for peace. How’s THAT offensive? You LIKE him!
A: Ok, let’s start with the whole black people aren’t a monolith thing. Just hold that, we’ll get back to it. Dr. King rightfully holds a place of honor among the black community and is celebrated as a hero of civil rights. But white people often don’t understand the complexity of his legacy.
The common narrative is that white people were mean to black people until the Sixties when Martin Luther King led a bunch of people to jail, had a dream that black people should be peaceful with whites at all times and then everyone was so sad when he got shot that Racism ended.
In truth, Dr. King represents only a portion of the black voices in the civil rights movement. He was (and is) often considered the “good” civil rights leader because he refused any violence and as such was preferred by whites to more bombastic voices such as Malcolm X. Even this though is based on an oversimplification of both their messages.
White people, liberals and conservatives alike often fetishize Dr. King, reducing him to a Jesus-like figure whose dictates all black people must obey. WWMLKD?
This is a silencing tactic. A dismissal of black anger. An abdication of responsibility for white supremacy. People can look at #BlackLivesMatter and say “We saw violence at your protest on the news. MLK said no violence. Therefore you’re illegitimate”. Those who think themselves allies often use Dr. King as an excuse to distance themselves from any part of the movement that is more aggressive than Kumbaya.
Tl;dr MLK isn’t our dad. You can’t run tell him on us.
Originally published at absurdistwords.tumblr.com.