How To Discuss Race With Black People: FAQ Part 2 — Intermediate

So you’ve been through the first FAQ on race.

Now you’ve got a good grasp of the basics. You’re boned up on your operational definitions, you grasp the necessary levels of propriety and respect, you’re working on not taking it personally when people point out ingrained racism you may express, and are at a good point to start discussing some of the nuances of black experience.

Q: No offense, but what about black-on-black crime?

A: I went on a rant about this once, but let me try to explain why people may call this question racist. Crime in general tends to be opportunistic. People tend to commit crimes against the people they’re around. When communities are largely segregated geographically by race (as is the case in much of America) crime in general will tend to be against people of the same race.

Some like to point out that 9 out of 10 black murder victims are killed by another black person. This is said to show that violence against blacks is an epidemic within black cultures. While this is a true statistic, it is misleading when not accompanied with context, such as the fact that 8 of 10 white murder victims are killed by white people. Doesn’t seem so drastic that way, huh?

Tl;dr: It sucks. Just like white-on-white crime.

Q: Ok, but as you said, aren’t way more black people killed by each other than police? Why aren’t there protests about that instead?

A: The issue of blacks killed by black civilians is an entirely different concept than that of blacks killed by police. When blacks are killed by police, whether armed or unarmed, justified or unjustified, police are rarely if ever convicted. For police, the killing of unarmed black civilians is de facto legal. It is this ill-granted immunity to consequences for brutality, racist policing and outright murder that we protest against. It would make little sense to hold a protest against criminals. It is the police that are supposed to help stop the criminals and at the moment, they seem unable to tell the difference between black people and criminals.

Tl;dr: Criminals don’t have a command structure to protest against. Police do.

Q: Speaking of Protests, I get that you’re mad but I don’t like this rioting and destruction of private property. That’s not the way to justice.

A: The problems with this question are numerous.

Firstly, it presumes that rioting or property damage was a goal of protesters. — It is difficult to wrap one’s head around the magnitude of the pressure that builds when a population is aggrieved continually without voice or relief, but explosive decompression is a thing.

Secondly, it presumes that rioting or property damage was initiated by protesters. — It is also common to underestimate the effect of the dynamic created when a group of unarmed civilians is surrounded by heavily-armed troops — often the same troops who have recently killed members of that same community with impunity. Asymmetrical police response to minor disturbance is an escalating factor and cannot be discounted when assigning blame for violence. In addition, protesters are routinely blamed for police missteps. As police literally control the scene, they also largely control the official narrative

Thirdly, it presumes that rioting is inherently an illegitimate tool of resistance — In fact, America’s long proud history is littered with triumphs of civil unrest. We have glorified the story of intrepid heroes doing what needs to be done to fight injustice. Instrumental violence to achieve worthy goals is an American favorite. Unless the people doing it are black.

Tl;dr — What do you think the Tea Party WAS?

Q: Well I think that the problem is that you keep making such a big deal out of race. If you just stopped talking about it all the time, it wouldn’t be a problem.

A: That’s not really a question. But I’ll answer it anyway. The problem of systemic racism continues even if I don’t talk about it. That’s what the “systemic” part is about. Racism in America is baked into the crust. Legislation, societal memes, media, education, policing, housing, poverty, systemic racism pervades each of these. The idea that everyone was getting along fine until this whole #BlackLivesMatter thing started is a fiction. The effects of racism have been with us this whole time, camouflaged and subtle but unabated. Talking about race doesn’t cause racism any more than talking about cancer causes tumors.

Tl;dr: Even if I stopped caring about my race, the police would do it for me.

Read more in Part 3

Originally published at