The Baltimore unrest showed bigots need to hear the voice of reason. And the rest of us need them to stay in touch with reality
Perhaps you’re like me, and the first thing you do every morning is to check social media. And perhaps on a recent morning, you opened your Facebook app only to see your old high school buddy Stacey post this:
“Why don’t we just send the US Marines to Baltimore City and clean house?! We don’t need these animals around us anyway!”. It was posted an hour ago, and already has 107 likes. You scroll down a bit further down the thread. One of her friends chimes in: “I’m down! As a Marine veteran, I’d love to smoke some of them animals!”. 46 likes on this one.
I’m gonna delete this jerk, you think. You don’t need this negativity, especially not this early in the morning. It doesn’t matter if she used to share her fries with you when you ditched gym class to go to Burger King. That was then, this is now – and whatever she’s become now disgusts you. You move your cursor, hovering over the ‘unfriend’ button.
But please, don’t. Not only because she needs you (she does), but because you need her. She’s the only thing keeping you in touch with reality right now.
I get it. It’s frustrating. We went through this with Ferguson, and Staten Island. Back then, your buddy posted fake pictures of Michael Brown with a gun, and now, she posts fake pictures of looting.
She posts videos of a CVS burning. She doesn’t post the videos of police throwing bricks at children, or the video of a young man literally being kidnapped by armored troops as CNN reporters ignore him. At best, she might post the now-infamous video of the woman smacking her child, calling her a hero — yes, Stacey, the same woman that posted that 10 Reasons Not to Hit your Child listicle last week. But she’s happy to have permission to cheer on the beating of a black child.
To her, broken windows really are worse than broken (black) spines.
It’s strange. All of a sudden, your friends, many of them (but not all) white, have an opinion on black politics.
These people — your friends — have never once said anything about Baltimore before Freddie Gray. Poverty did not concern them. Lack of access to healthy food did not concern them. Even police brutality did not concern them, except when it came with a video, because that was free entertainment. But suddenly, they are not only moral authorities, but political strategists and historians: If even one of you people steal something, it will ruin your cause – can’t you see that? You’ve got to police your own. Isn’t this rap music’s fault? Can’t you be like Dr. King? He never inconvenienced people’s daily commutes.
It’s a bizarre kind of Monday Morning quarterbacking – except instead of wannabe athletes, they become wannabe political leaders of a movement they don’t even support.
We know what their true thoughts are. Their feeling for us — and by ‘us’ I do not only mean black people — is somewhere between angry disinterest and hatred. They say that they are not racists, but we know better. We know that the word ‘racist’ does not only apply to the man holding the rope around the black man’s neck in those
old postcards of public hangings.
It also applies to the spectators who point at the body as it swings in the air. It also applies to the people at home, not pictured, who don’t attend the festivities, but would rather not think about them.
That is, we know that the violence of racism doesn’t always come with the throw of a noose and the cock of a gun. Sometimes, it comes with a shrug of the shoulders, and a click of the tongue. But, they have a point when they complain about the rioting and say that violence will not solve violence. Violence is not the answer here. We can’t allow ourselves to sink to their level.
What is happening in Baltimore is the result of America turning its back on its own. It is violence of willful ignorance that we cannot afford to imitate. There can be no ‘safe space’ for us, until all spaces are safe. If we aren’t safe in the courtrooms or in the streets, we can’t pretend to be safe online.
So: don’t be like them. Real life is not a closet that you can ‘tidy up.’ It is a world in which the girl you used to eat bugs with in kindergarten can grow up to be a frightened xenophobe. Stacey, and your other friends can get annoyed at Baltimore links and go look at cat pictures, but you cannot. Read their statuses, observe their entitled annoyance. You don’t have to respond, yet.
But don’t turn away.