I used to tell my husband that while some white people may be prejudiced against black people, most do not realize their prejudices. It’s just ingrained in them somehow… they’re victims of a system that was built to slyly discount us.
I never believed it was this conscious, purposeful thing, until now.
Mke Brown was an 18 year old, scheduled to start college two days after he was killed by an officer in Ferguson, MO. He was unarmed, and he was shot 6 times. The case has caused an uproar, particularly in my hometown of St. Louis, a city in which Ferguson is a suburb of.
Many of my “friends” on social media are white people. I associate with all kinds of people, and the diversity, for the most part, is wonderful. Most of my friends, regardless of race, are amazing people.
In the wake of the emotionally charged aftermath of Mike Brown’s killing, I noticed something strange…
… and heartbreaking.
While not the majority, a quite substantial number of white “friends” had horrible, insensitive, flat-out racist things to say about Mike Brown, about Ferguson, about black people in general. As a whole, we were called animals, criminals and thugs. We were referred to as gangsters, and some of my “friends”- people who know me, and know my black husband, our two black daughters- called black people the most vile and hateful of things.
These vicious attacks against people of color came after reports of a small crowd of looters and rioters posing as protesters in Ferguson late at night. I won’t sugar coat the damage they did. It was substantial, but these were not Ferguson residents, and the number of people looting compared to the thousands of people protesting was negligible.
Even though the majority of the protests were peaceful, these “friends” of mine didn’t focus on any of that. They didn’t care that the United Way was doing drop-ins to provide food and water to the protesters. They didn’t care that residents of the town came out at sunrise to clean up their streets from the activity of the night before, or that booths had been set up to register people to vote.
Rather than pay attention to the reality of what was unfolding in front of our very eyes- we were witnessing the historic moment in which a generation of black boys became activists- they chose instead to focus solely on the violence perpetuated by a criminal few.
These same people chose to completely ignore the shocking and heartbreaking terror being committed against peaceful people by our own law enforcements officers. They cheered when police officers began pointing military weapons at unarmed 90-year old women, they watched with excitement as these officers began kicking the media out of Ferguson, arresting reporters at McDonalds, bringing in tanks and tear gas.
They wildly cheered when police began firing rubber bullets on unarmed citizens, who did nothing more than exercise their constitutional rights to stand in their community and protest the death of yet another unarmed black boy.
So you see, it isn’t violence they hate.
It’s us. It’s me. My daughters, my husband.
They ignored the violence that killed Mike Brown, choosing instead to criminalize him. They circulated a (fake) picture of Brown, showing him drinking alcohol, smoking weed and holding a gun. Even when they learned the picture depicted someone else, someone wholly unrelated to Mike Brown, they continued.
These “friends” knowingly perpetuated a lie against a dead black boy.
They circulated a picture of State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson, a Kappa from college, posing with a fellow Kappa, a frat brother, claiming the Captain (a black man) was “throwing up gang signs” in the streets he was charged with protecting.
As support for the police officer that killed Mike Brown began to grow, these “friends” began to label those protesting on the officer’s behalf as “supporters”. Those who rallied in support of Mike Brown’s family, in contrast, with their black skin, were labeled an “angry mob”. This, in spite of the fact that Mike Brown supporters chanted, “Hands up, Don’t shoot!”, while Wilson’s supporters chanted, “Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!”
I realized, as I watched all of this unfold, that the hatefulness, the ugliness of my “friends”- yes, the racism- they showed, couldn’t possibly be an accident. It was purposeful, and they are not the unsuspecting victims of some backwards societal norm that slights black people.
They want it this way. They want to hate my family and me.
The people I’m referring to don’t actually know any “thugs” firsthand. They hide behind their computer screens and act tough, but would honestly rather die than spend five seconds in the ‘hood, with or without thugs present.
No, the black people they know are gainfully employed, educated and family oriented. The black people they know do not fit the stereotypes these so-called “friends” of mine are so intent on perpetuating. The black people they know look just like my husband and I do, like our beautiful children. Our children who get straight As in school, who play the piano, like to swim, and volunteer for charity. The black people they know look like my husband, the college educated sports official who mentors kids of all ages for a living. They look like me- a woman who was educated at a private university, has a degree, and is successful in her field. A family that loves each other, demands excellence from each other, and loves the world around us.
That’s how I know this prejudice, this racism, is purposeful.
Even when their own experiences with black people are the complete opposite of what the stereotypes portray us as, they still choose- yes, actively choose– to market negative, false stereotypes about us, putting ugly, hurtful and downright horrific labels on our shoulders.
They know we are not what they say we are, and yet, they persist.
I finally understood that these people are not victims of a racist society.These people are what makes our society racist.