In the months following the Ferguson shooting, I engaged in several conversations about both the event and the protests and riots that followed. My position from the very beginning was that, if justice was truly the goal, then helping the system to work properly – or at the very least, not actively hindering the system – was the most effective way to see that justice done. In regards to the protests and riots, I stated many times my opinion: if you want to wear a sign and stand outside the police department, then by all means, knock yourself out. The Constitution protects your right to do that. But if your brand of “justice” entitles you to damage property and/or people, then I question your definition of the word.
As I had these conversations, there were a couple of phrases that kept popping up, regardless of the political ideology or race of the speaker: “you're not entitled to an opinion on the racial implications of this situation because you're not black,” and “well, you wouldn't understand because no one has ever judged you by the color of your skin.”
My immediate response was twofold. First, that if there are racial implications to this case – and I firmly believe that if there are, they were manufactured after the fact (ask yourself if Darren Wilson *might* have fired at a 6'3” 300lb white dude, and maybe you'll see what I mean.)- then they must by definition involve more than one race. If more than one race is involved, then the opinions of all races involved are valid. And second, that I find it extremely ironic that someone would make a snap judgment based on my skin color that I have never been judged by my skin color.
So I want to talk about racism. I'm aware that by general consensus, I'm not allowed to talk about racism, because I'm the white girl from the suburbs. But I'm going to talk about it anyway, because it's a problem.
I don't mean the kind of “racism” that makes people think that white people can't dance, black people run fast, and Asians are better at math. Those are simple biases and stereotypes. Racism is the idea that an entire race of people is genetically inferior, that their humanity has less inherent value. And that is a problem in America, but it isn't coming from the places you'd think.
It's not coming from Tea Party rallies. It's not coming from the Christian Right. It's not coming from Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or Mark Levin.
It's coming from colleges, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the President himself.
Yes. And I, for one, am tired of it.
I am tired of the racism that is systemic in America. I'm tired of minorities are being taught practically from birth that the only way they can ever hope to compete is to accept the hand of a magnanimous government. (Never mind the Ben Carsons, Mia Loves, and Stacey Dashes of the world. They *obviously* only made it because white people adopted them as tokens.)
I'm tired of minorities being told that they don't have the strength, drive, or intelligence to make it on their own. I'm tired of minorities being told that the government has to set aside a few seats in every college classroom because if enrollment were based on merits alone they'd never make it. I'm tired of minorities being told that they need the government to demand that employers hire a certain percentage of minorities because if hiring were based solely on merits, they'd never be good enough to take a job from a white guy.
I'm tired of watching the government and schools attempt to hold my black friends back while claiming to be their only hope for salvation.
But I'm also tired of being judged myself based on nothing but my race.
I'm tired of people saying they want dialogue about race in America and then telling me that because I'm white I am not allowed an opinion, much less a voice or a seat at the table.
I'm tired of people complaining about a broken justice system when the system is fighting an uphill battle against a culture that punishes people for telling the truth. (Snitches get stitches.) How, I ask you, could a perfect system reach a just decision without any hope of obtaining truthful input?
I'm tired of people telling me that because I went to a prep school that was 95% white, I can't possibly feel empathy when my good friend – a black Mormon Republican – gets called Uncle Tom and has his life and even his children threatened with violence.
I'm tired of being judged by my skin color and summarily dismissed as someone who is incapable of understanding the systemic problems we face as a nation and as human beings. I could just as easily say that anyone who has not delivered a sixteen week stillborn is unqualified to have an opinion about grief. Human suffering has many forms, and to understand one is to share in them all.
I'm tired of being lashed out at because someone else's ancestors were oppressed by my ancestors. Not only is it not true (my family history includes homesteaders and Union soldiers, not slaveholders) but it's patently ridiculous to assume that I share in the blame for something that I only could have been part of in a past life.
I'm tired of watching my black friends hurt by people who call them “Uncle Tom,” “token,” and “monkey puppet,” and question the validity of their “blackness” because they have the audacity to break free of the hive mentality and seek out informed opinions of their own.
I'm tired of my white friends who have wholly swallowed the notions of “white guilt” and “white privilege” talking down to me because they are “enlightened” enough to voluntarily take the blame for a problem they did not cause – and I'm tired of being one of the few to recognize the irony in the fact that by shouldering that blame, they perpetuate the same problem they believe themselves to be fixing.
We do need to address the problem of racism in America. But if we ever hope to address it, we first need to recognize it for what it is, and we need to be willing to look for it where it is.
*Feature photo courtesy of The Gateway Pundit.