(Photo Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
It won’t happen often, but I want to deviate away from the normal type of blog posting to discuss some current events. We all know what is going on in Charlottesville, VA. White Supremacists have proven once again that they have a strong support group and are willing to commit violence to back their cause. Full disclosure: I am a white liberal and not at all a Donald Trump supporter. This post will not go into politics. I want to talk about the anger some, and I stress the word some, black people have towards white people right now and give my take on it.
I’m active on Twitter, but I try not to get goaded into any crazy Tweet battles. Unfortunately, I have seen many posts from some black people who are angry about whites using the hastag #ThisIsNotUs, or similar expressions, in their efforts to disavow the supremacists. Here is just one of many examples I have come across.
As I started to look around Twitter for similar themes, I was met with a barrage of similar responses. Unfortunately, they did not offer a common solution. Some blacks expressed outrage like the one above and some said that whites are responsible for everything and we are not owning up to it. Therefore, they conclude, we should not speak out. Ignoring the logical fallacy of statements like that, I want to discuss their argument.
I taught high school history, so I wish they wouldn’t presume to think all whites do not understand. While I’m not black, we share a common history. My history was just on the other side. To say that I can never reach a point of understanding that will satisfy you is basically saying there is no hope for the future. So, let me, as a white guy, tell you what I do understand.
I understand that our slavery began in the 1600s and was the most brutal, long lasting institution the US has ever used. I understand that it was not ever humane, no matter how well some people claim slaves were treated. Slavery is never humane. I understand that whites in this country fought to keep slavery long after every other global community disowned it, but I also know that whites fought hard on the other side to rid our country of the horror.
I understand that slavery ended in 1865, but it ended in name only. Oppression was just getting started at that point. I understand that the end of Reconstruction in the South opened the way for Jim Crow laws, Black Codes, and the most incredibly inhumane treatment of people that was possible. Lynching, dragging behind horses, torture. And that’s just the physical treatment. I understand the KKK was and still is the worst hate group this country has produced and that whites could have ended this at any time, if they wanted. If they had the collective will. They didn’t. While not all were extreme racists, most though of blacks as inferior.
I understand that it took the incredible bravery of a generation of black Americans to begin the change that we have yet to complete. I understand there were many camps in the Civil Rights Movement, and I do understand why they were all necessary. Martin Luther King and Malcom X vastly differed in their approach, but both men’s methods were born of a long, weary road of pain. I understand but cannot comprehend the courage it took Oliver Brown to muster to sue and overturn Plessy v Ferguson, one of the worst decisions in our Supreme Court’s history. I understand but cannot fathom the earth shattering fear those nine girls must have experienced walking through the doors of Little Rock Central High School.
I understand that we’ve reached a tipping point once again and I understand why.
I grew up white, not black, but I know that every black person faces things that I will never face. Walking into a store, they will be watched closer than me. White people may cross the street to walk on the other side when they see a young black man coming towards them. Entire black communities try to survive day after day without their men because the laws in this country, created almost solely by white men, have incarcerated them at incredibly high rates, causing irreparable systemic damage. Single black mothers fight for their children, only to see society often treat them as lesser. I’ve personally seen teachers make the mistake of presuming a black child can’t possibly know as much as a white one and I’ve seen a group of black girls at a church event get called the “n” word by a group of white boys as those boys rode by in their jacked up truck. I couldn’t find the words to say to apologize to those girls, but I know they will never forget that.
I’ll wrap this up because I know this is getting long. My point is this – I will not stay silent and I don’t care who gets mad at me, white or black people. Don’t presume to understand me and what I know. I’ll listen to you and you listen to me. We beat this together, not divided. Trust me, there are plenty of white people like me. It’s just a loud minority that’s making noise right now, and we’ll see it fixed.