Editor's note: I wrote the beginning of this article for the blog a year ago. Due to scheduling, I never posted it. Since then, it's been sitting in a scrap pile of words that I call "My Vent Box." Sadly, with the death of Botham Jean, this is relevant again.
We all know the problems. Discrimination. Inequality. Racism. Prejudice. Bias.
Really, pick a word. It’s hard to turn on the news and not see these through the news stories. Whether it’s a politician saying he should be able to grab a woman’s breasts/nipples if she has them out to breastfeed, the near-lynching of an 8-year-old boy in 2017, or any accusations hurled on many DREAMERS, it’s all over the place.
But still, there are those who continue to say things like, “White people don’t do that,” or “Police officers don’t do that,” or “That was a long time ago,” or even “Oh my God it was a joke. You take things too seriously.”
I often complain about people using their yardsticks to measure me and box me in according to overgeneralizations. I hear the same ones over and over again.
"Black people don’t travel.”
Um, Hi. I've lived in Colombia for three years.
“Women don’t do that.”
Yea, hey. I picked up and moved to a country sight unseen, with no job, and made a life there.
It’s all about your language. “Some white people don’t do that”; “Many police officers don’t do that.” (Yea I got nothing else for the other statements because it wasn’t that long ago and the jokes aren’t funny.
In actuality, the problem isn’t inequality. It’s ignorance. The problem is people don’t, or refuse to, see that discrimination exists. Despite the videos, the statistics, the tiki-torch bearing SOBs who wear shirts saying “Only White Lives Matter,” the news and the people themselves who actually admit their hate, people still say, “That doesn’t happen.” Then they parade the few brown faces that agree, as if they are the rule and the other thousands of faces are merely exceptions or conspiracy theorists.
This is super simplistic but here’s the thing: If a hundred people are yelling fire and five people are like, “Nah, there ain’t no fire,” who will you believe?
If your answer is the few, I really don’t know where to go from here with you.
But if you answered the majority, why is this different? Our houses are on fire. They’ve been on fire. But we’ve gotten so used the heat that some of us stopped talking about it and now people think it went away.
But that time is over. We are burning. We are dying. We are suffocating.
Our streets are flooded with blood and pain and hopelessness. We are the victims of ignorance.
Not long after “Black Lives Matter” came out, “All Lives Matter” showed up. And then “Blue Lives Matter.” And I wondered, how can they see police being unfairly judged and targeted but not the brown bodies that keep flying over their newscasts.
And the answer is simple: They don’t want to. They choose not to.
It’s this ignorance that is murdering us. It’s this willful and defiant lack of empathy that allows police brutality and excessive force. It amazes me that people can say, “Not all police are bad,” but can’t admit, “Not all (perceived) criminals deserve to be gunned down in the streets.”
And now, the recent uptick in police phone calls on "people being black in public spaces"is running rampant through my timeline. From the man barbecuing in the park to the women who fell asleep in the common space of her apartment building on the Yale campus, being black (or as the police calling people would say "not belonging") is grounds for police involvement.
The odd thing is, I would never even think to call the police for someone I didn't know sleeping in the common space. If anything (and this is a stretch because seeing someone with books sleeping in a common space used for studying and meeting is just normal) I would call building maintenance.
For a while, police were using their weapons indeterminately. Now people are using police as their weapons.
You can't see multiple police shootings and not make a connection that it's possible that when they are called, it could escalate to that.
Ignoring the problem, refusing to hear the other side, coloring everyone with the same brush, makes the problem bigger. Just because you’re not racist, doesn’t mean there aren’t racists. Just because you’re not a sexist (I’m watching my language) doesn’t mean that other person isn’t.
By denying their fallacies, and highlighting those of the victims, bigots are given an invisible cloak to wear because people refuse their existence. And that ignorance is what they hide behind.
For those people who say, “You shouldn’t take a knee during the National Anthem,” for those who have yelled “All Lives Matter,” over the pleas for “Black Lives Matter,” for those who have said that our cries are overreactions or have shouted stats back at our numbers, I ask you: have you ever sat down with someone to have this conversation? Not just read and “liked” a meme; not just posted an article with your dissenting opinion above it. But have you sat down with an open heart (that’s the key) and said, “Why do you feel this way?”
And before you deflect by posing that same question to me, yes. We have. The evidence is that you can still ignore it. The evidence is that only now are confederate statues being taken down. The evidence is only recently has there been a Women’s March and TimesUp campaigns. The evidence is the creation of “All Lives Matter” as a statement and not a movement. Yes, we’ve heard you. For centuries, we’ve heard. But we are no longer accepting being harassed, bullied, demeaned, and murdered by your ignorance.
It's not enough to be non-racist. You have to be anti-racist. And that requires action.