American Genocide and White Privilege

My entire being has been rife with emotion today. From the moment I witnessed the institutional murder of Alton Sterling, my lens of the day was dramatically altered. I waded through an endless stream of tweets and posts about bullshit that seems meaningless in the wake of yet another murder which is, really, a slow leak in the sea of American genocide.

Where one is suffering, we all are suffering. That is the oneness. The Rev. Dr. David Alexander likes to say “there is no private good.” There is also no private sorrow.

So here’s how it goes, white people of the world: we have white privilege. And we can do one of two things with this — we can be an ally or be a perpetrator. There is no middle ground. There is no gray area.

I don’t need to explain how to be the latter. Cops have already illustrated that for us. But what about the former? How can we be white allies?

Be Like Peter Rosenberg

When someone makes excuses, derails the conversation with unimportant variables, or attempts to plant seeds of doubt, you simply say, “no.” Or, better yet, “fuck no!”

There is no debate. There are no excuses. There is no justification for a cop putting the barrel of a gun to a detained man’s chest and pulling the trigger multiple times.

Support Policy Solutions

Campaign Zero has you covered on this. I have learned more from them than anyone else. With this information I am choosing to empower myself, so I can empower others.

Look at this list carefully. Nothing here suggests that the lives of police are insignificant. These are real solutions, aimed at protecting and preserving life. Policing without racial bias so we can all live safer lives.

When police murder 561 people before the halfway mark of the year, at a rate of five times as many black over white, our system of policing isn’t working. (Note: by the time I publish this article that number is statistically likely to increase.) “All lives” aren’t on the endangered list — black Americans are the ones at significant risk. Sound policies can help us move in the right direction for an elimination of racial bias in policing.

Learn, Educate, and Act

Data. There is so much of it available. Ignorance is not an option. We can…

  1. map the violence for a sense of the enormity of its depth;
  2. read a list of demands from our black brothers/sisters on college campuses across the country;
  3. check the police to learn how they’re promoting legislation that provides better protection for their violence;
  4. add our voice to a survey, ensuring we all stay woke;
  5. and even get inspired by witnessing the progress of our protests.

Want to protest, but aren’t sure where to begin? Here are some chants and signs to get you and your white friends started.

Be Uncomfortable

I get it. You’re a good white person. You don’t engage in racism, and you gasp upon witnessing it. I recognize that protests and macabre data are intense for some people. For most people. Maybe you. So you want to begin small. Here’s how: make yourself uncomfortable.

  1. When your white co-worker tells a racist joke, dive deep into the discomfort of confrontation. Tell him that shit is absolutely unacceptable, and isn’t funny. If he says “it’s only a joke,” ask him if he’d tell it to a black person. If the answer is “no”, he’ll get it. If the answer is “yes,” we have a more serious pain that needs healing.
  2. When you see a service worker smile and engage in small talk with a white person, then dial down her tone for the black person she serves next, speak up. Tell her you noticed, and explain to her how this is a microaggression that feeds a culture of racism, and must end immediately. Need to baby step into this kind of confrontation? Take a moment to be extra friendly to that black person in a way that is very overt, so she knows you noticed. (This has the extra benefit of being a simple act of kindness.)
  3. When your friend explains (with kind intentions) that “all lives matter,” explain how the sentiment, while founded on good intentions, is derailing, because right now the focus is on black lives. Yes, all lives matter, but right now black lives matter the most because they’re the ones being hunted in the streets. Legally. Reddit user GeekAesthete will tell you more.
  4. When you hear that over a hundred people were murdered by terrorists in Paris, mourn. Feel that sorrow, because it’s horrible and painful. But if you’re going to change your Facebook icon to an Eiffel Tower in remembrance, make sure you afford the church people of Charleston the same respect by using a steeple avatar in remembrance of their massive hate crime.

Be Awake

Find these moments, and act. These small-but-powerful actions will help change the culture of racism we Americans have endured for so long. And we are in a unique position to do so because we are white. Why?

When a black person calls out a white person for a microaggression, the reaction is most often defensive. “I have black friends, so I’m not a racist. Fuck you.” But when a white person calls out a white person for the very same thing, the energy is different because it’s not received with a false sense of duality. Psychologists call this intergroup bias. And this is what affords us great power in influence over ethnocultural empathy.

I have always considered myself a great white ally, but when Alton Sterling is happening, it is clear that I am not. I accept responsibility for my part in this. I will be not just an ally, but an active ally. And you, other white people, can do the same. Tell your friends. Especially your white friends.


Update: as previously mentioned, I couldn’t even complete/publish this article before another black man was murdered by police. Philando Castile was murdered in the front seat of his car, with his girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter inside with him. I repeat: genocide.

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