A conversation I read online between two humans trying to understand each other and what has happened. A little more talking, and trying, and understanding will make a better world.
I have a number of white acquaintances. I even have a few white friends. The latter are people who simply accept me and all of my eccentricities. They judge me, they yell at me, they tell me I don’t understand. For the most part, my white friends know I never really think of them as my ‘white’ friends.
Why start this off with the above? Well. It’s actually rather simple. We live in a race society and a racially divided country and race, for the most part, has a bearing on almost every single solitary action in our existence. I choose to start this off with a reality. It doesn’t matter if I am walking around in a high end store or wanting to buy a house. The differences scream at us whether we want them to or not. Try as we might to NOT see the differences and as politically correct as it may be to not even mention the differences, if you can’t discuss those differences then are you truly friends?
What’s going on in Ferguson, MO is tragic and backing down behind the argument “we don’t really know what happened around that police car. Wait for the facts to come out” does not quite grasp the anguish and horror as well as the complete and total frustration so many blacks in that town and blacks all over America experience, not feel but actually experience directly each and every day of our lives.
Getting pulled over for “Driving while Black” is not some cute little saying nor does this cute little saying fully grasp the horror of what it is to pass by a police car, look at him while he looks at you going by and KNOW you need to prepare to pull over. Not once or twice or in some small southern town but the absolute reality of this in big and medium American cities. Black children may be taught to respect the police but we come to understand that we must FEAR the police. They will shoot us. They will beat us. They will harass us. Usually with little or no provocation. This is a reality for us. For us the police force is a military force with all of the enjoined powers thereof, and it’s not a black cop nor a white cop because all cops are blue.
My white friends and I have this conversation and some of them get that they cannot understand no matter how many facts they may have about our existence. They try. They really do but they cannot. They are sympathetic and get it intellectually but the reality of having a police officer order one to show ID simply because you are walking down the street or to have someone follow you around a store… or even to ask a police officer for directions. It’s terrifying for those of us who are law abiding citizens. What about those who straddle it or flat out break the law.
This is a terrifying time in Ferguson but this is only the reality that we live with each and every single day and it does not make it to the media and when it does it’s downplayed because the victim is black. Let’s face it he already has two strikes against him. He’s black and he’s male. Anything that happens… well the cops are probably justified.
Some of us whites have an inkling. If we are dressed in really casual clothes, torn blue jeans, 3 day beard etc, the cops are more likely to harass us when out walking, store clerks watch us and so on. Many whites and other races have experienced this unfortunate class-based discrimination.
However, there is a big difference – all my fellow whites and I have to do is put on a suit and tie and the police usually turn much more courteous. From talking to blacks and reading accounts in the news the discrimination happens no matter what. It must be a terrible feeling to live in a society where you are constantly under suspicion wherever you go or what you do.
When prejudicial thoughts enter my mind I try really hard to not let them turn into action. I believe we all can reduce each form of discrimination in society if we have the self-discipline and courage.