Monday, January 5, 2015

Racism, and what it doesn't look like

The national conversation surrounding race right now has been divisive and ugly.  It's brought out powerful emotions all over the country.  It has created leaders, shown a lot of people's true colors, and often left me teetering in the middle of not wanting to speak for people of color (a group for which I don't claim membership), but also needing to be an ally and speak up for the sake of my children of color.

A large part of the current conversation is whether or not law enforcement is racist.  It's a complex concept and conversation that brings out defensiveness from those who wear the uniform and pain from those who have felt injustice at the hands of law enforcement because of the color of their skin.

No one (well, mostly no one) wants to be called a racist.  Because when we think of racists we think of the KKK, people posting on social media about how much they hate Black people, or maybe refusing to associate with people of color.  We have a caricature of what a racist is, and if a person doesn't fit that, then they must not be racist.

What we are denying and ignoring are our internalized biases and institutionalized racism.  The things that happen in the inside of our heads that may never overtly see the light of day, but are there.  They influence out emotions, how we treat people, and how we think about others.  They are why you may be more nervous to be out walking at night and see a group of Black teens walking toward you than you are when it's a group of White teens.  It's why you have no trouble using the word thug, and defending it's use.  It's why you indignantly ask where a specific leader (usually Al Sharpton) in the Black community is when there's a shooting involving gangs or children, but get upset when the same leader shows up when there is a crime committed that smells of racism.

It's why I get annoyed when I see people gush over news stories of a White cop doing something overtly kind to a Black child.  Because if we didn't all understand that these racist thoughts and emotions exist inside of all of us, that wouldn't be news.  And that?  Doing something sweet for a Black child or teen?  Is not an example of someone not being racist.  It's not an example that police don't have racist policies and behaviors.  It's an example of being human.  Of having biases about a people group, but being willing to show kindness to a member of that people group when the opportunity presents itself.

So can we not act like a police officer being nice to a Black child is some kind of grand gesture?  Something to be applauded?  Being nice to my child is not hard.  Not applause worthy.

Want to make a grand gesture police officers and those who love them?  Want to show that you ACTUALLY care about him?  Follow in this guy's footsteps.

Credit: WWHATS UP?! Pittsburg

Because hugging my kid when he's little and cute won't keep me from having to bury him when you decide he's big and scary.  Just another Black teen, mistaken for a man, in the inner city up to no good, of course.

Stop the feel good stories and the hugging, and combat that reality instead.

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