On Friday I woke up, looked at the news and knew exactly what most of my friends and family would be talking about on social media: Riots. Looting. How violence was sweeping our nation in the wake of the murder or George Floyd. My first thought was, great, here we go again. Then I thought, wait, Can I help in some way? Can I try to open a dialogue with my white family and friends about why this is happening? I’ve been trying for the last year to understand the structural racism that our country was founded on. The same structural racism that our country began with–kill the Native Americans, move them to reservations, and take their land–and kept up with like an unspoken mantra for decades. The same structural racism that made Black people a fraction of a person. That made a rich country on the backs of minorities. The same structural racism that allows us to be okay with children dying in cages at the border, today. The same that makes “Not all cops are bad” as the only proper response to the killing of George Floyd. What I know and what other white (and some Black) people don’t yet realize is that our country was founded on these idea. Keep the minorities down. And as long as we don’t talk about it, just do it, all will be well.
So I got the bright idea to let myself be on Facebook all day long. Now y’all know I have been limiting my access to Facebook to 15 minutes a day for about eight months now, and it has done wonders for my mental health. I mean I would spend all day on there. I would work with the Facebook tab open. I would compulsively check my phone all day to see if someone “liked” or commented on something. That’s how I got my news, my recipes, my pictures of cute dogs and babies. But alas, I learned you can get all those from other places, and that the less time I spend on social media the better I feel. Now I know this is not the case for some of you. We know what social media is at its worst, but at its best it can do amazing things. It’s just that I am programmed to focus on the bad stuff, so it doesn’t work for me like it might others, and that’s okay. But yesterday I asked Jerimiah (the keeper of my Facebook time) to give me access all day. He put in the password, handed me the phone, then asked if that was a good idea. Of course, I almost screamed, I’m doing good today!
What I ended up doing was getting sucked right back into the “bad.” I got sucked back into sharing my opinion on other people’s pages, who quite frankly, were not as “woke” as me? Yeah, let’s say that. White fragility is real, y’all. I’ve been reading about it, but I wasn’t sure until I read something that a Black activist wrote a few weeks ago and suddenly I was offended. All, Well how could she say that about me? How could she clump me in with those white people? She doesn’t know me, look I’m different, I have experience with this, I blah, blah, blah… Then I was like, Oh shit, I just highlighted her point exactly.
White people, especially women, get so upset when you share truth with them, so offended, that they lash out. Not all, but most. Count me as one of them. One of them who is working on not being that way. How dare we suggest white women are just more of the same? Well, how do you think it makes Black people feel when you use stereotypes on them? When our culture, our society, has taught these stereotypes. Jesus, more than half of my white friends and family aren’t even friends with a Black person. They don’t even know Black people. Or they haven’t lived in a predominantly Black community. So they only know these stereotypes and these ideas about Black culture from what they have been taught by society.
Then there were the Not All Cops Are Bad people. No one that I know, or have talked to recently has claimed all cops are bad. Matter fact, I know several people in Law Enforcement. And the people I know and am related to would probably, I’d like to think at least, stick up for people like George Floyd. But who can say. Atlanta’s Police Chief Erika Sheilds said it best, she said, “As law enforcement officers, we tend to put ourselves in the shoes of the police officer who is detaining. We have been there. We get that space. We need to stop seeing it that way. We need to step back and see the whole situation. Some people just should not police, and those people should be swiftly seen for who they are and removed.” Yeah, that’s part of the whole point. That’s why we need mental health checks, and psych evaluations on people before they become police officers. Better training, oversight committees formed by the people of the city, the very people the police are policing.
If you think about it, being a LEO is just a smaller version of a politician. They are there to serve the community, to keep people safe. It wasn’t until the Civil Rights era when police officers were tasked with spraying SILENT protestors with hoses and pelting them with rubber bullets, that suddenly police (some of them) began to see themselves as the keeper of “right” and “wrong.” We gave power to them that must be restored. Do they have a dangerous job? Absolutely. Do they get shot at in the line of service? Do they die for no reason? Yes. Yes. What does it stem from, do you think? Structural racism? Lack of mental health care for people who need it? Yes. And yes. I’ve met, had actual conversions with LEOs who truly believe they are God. Who put on the uniform and become someone else. I once knew a cop in Leavenworth, a young guy, new to the force, who was married with a baby at home. He liked to use his badge to fuck with young people, young men especially. Why? He liked to have sex with guys, but he couldn’t tell his family he was gay, so he’d use his badge to prey on young men. Should he have been policing? Uhh, no. But did people think this stand-up, married, dad was doing what he was doing? Uhh, no.
Just because someone has a badge doesn’t make them inherently good. You should hear the stories I have heard about male police officers and how they have random sex and affairs with women. Take advantage of women. Rape women in custody. Cheat on their spouses, and think it’s okay because they are “the law” and besides, don’t women always says shit like, “I love a man in uniform…” Le sigh. That sort of power can go to someone’s head. I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. And those people should not be policing. I also think many law enforcement officers have witnessed their colleagues say and do things to Black people that is offensive, violent, etc, and have stayed silent. No one wants to piss off a co-worker. No one wants to piss off people they have to see day in and day out. But when you do you are aiding the problem. I know this is hard for people with loved ones who are LEOs to hear. I know it is hard for the “Thin Blue Line” people to hear. But it doesn’t make it less true. Think on it.
Then there are the protesters. I had a couple of people reach out, which I always prefer, and ask why I condone rioting and looting. I don’t. They just assumed that I do because I called bullshit on structural racism. I reminded people that the anger and hatred that fueled the Boston Tea Party and the rioting and looting there is now taught in school as “Patriotism.” I reminded people that last month white men walked into their state capital with Ak-47s and demanded to be able to eat at TGIFridays without a mask, and our president called them “Good people who are just angry.” Then I reminded them that if a group of people protesting at a #BLM rally turn to looting (which by the way is not the intent of the #BlackLivesMatter movement), they are “thugs” and it is “violence” not “patriotism.” Why do you think that is? I have a hunch.
Jerimiah and I sat in awe last night as we watched instigators tear down Atlanta. It was shameful to see. Damn it, Jerimiah sighed. Because he knows, like I do and a lot of us, that now people will only see this protest, this peaceful, non-violent, planned protest, as a “riot.” And I get the anger from people who say, “I don’t condone this.” Most people don’t. Most of the protesters were long gone, and their were more than enough people telling CNN reporters, as they stood outside CNN and watched the agitators break the glass windows to their office, that they do not condone this. That isn’t what it was supposed to be about.
The thing that got me was the amount of white people they were interviewing, who were A. Not from Atlanta and B. Just there to start some shit. White people busting out windows, white people screaming at the cops, white people burning the flag, which by the way, doesn’t bother me. You can hate me all you want, but I don’t give two shits about the burning of a piece of cloth. Would I do it? Probably not. Not unless I thought I had a good enough reason, like my son was killed by cops then my president didn’t give a shit, or you know, something like that. But the newscaster was all, “This is hard to watch” as two white people burned an American flag, and Jerimiah and I looked at each other and were like, This? This is hard to watch? This is the part that is hard to watch? Now we see how infuriating it must be to silently protest and be told you’re doing it wrong. You can’t kneel. You can’t burn a piece of cloth. You can’t stand with your hands up. You can’t form a chain and peacefully walk from one part of the city and then back again. You can’t call out white supremacy.
I know too many people who have watched the KKK burn down a Black church and sigh and go, “Well, what can you do?” then to sit and listen to them bitch about a Target on fire. (Eye roll). But it doesn’t matter how people protest, it’s wrong in the eyes of the US government. Unless, as mentioned before, you are a white male protesting with automatic weapons on the steps of your state capital, then you cool. Otherwise, no. No kneeling in silent protest. No walking across bridges. No burning the flag in protest. No standing in the street with your hands raised. No chanting, “I can’t breathe.” You get what I’m slinging.
I was actually really happy with the way Atlanta handled it all on Friday. And I was really happy with the protest itself. We did not go because we don’t feel comfortable going to fucking Wingstop to pick up chicken wings right now, so you won’t find me at any political rallies, but I was happy that people let their feelings out. That pastors spoke. That healing happened. But it was negated by the chaos that followed. So now we have two choices: We can either focus on the rioting, or the problem and solution. Too many of y’all wanna focus on the rioting and I get why. It’s easier. It is a cut and dry situation. They burned a cop car. That is wrong. And easy to fix. And a pretty agreeable stance. Burning cop cars is bad. Killing and imprisoning Black men, hmm, that’s harder for some of you to work out.
The last thing I saw before I turned off the television was Dr. Bernice King. She came to the press conference Mayor Bottoms held in Atlanta. Mayor Bottoms was a mother up there. “Go home,” she said. “If you love this city, go home.” Of course as I said, many of the instigators were not from Atlanta, so no, they do not love this city. Most of Atlanta was already at home, worrying about how the city would look in the morning. Then T.I. spoke, then Killer Mike, then Dr. Bernice King. She reminded people that what you miss when you use her father’s words, “A riot is the language of the unheard…” is the part about the “unheard” and as long as there is rioting, you will continue to be “unheard.” And she’s right. But, we are taught, in this white supremacy world that we live in, to accept that the murder of an unarmed Black man in daylight by a police officer as “non-violence” but looting a Target as “violence.” And until we can all get on the same page about what the “problem” is, no one will be heard. On thing is for sure about watching angry people light cop cars on fire in the middle of downtown Atlanta, we have a problem in this country, and you can’t ignore it any longer.
Listen, I shared the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote the other day on Insta and FB. The one that said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” And a lot of people “Loved” and “Liked” it. Then when the protestors took to the street, y’all lost your voice. Got upset if someone put you in your place. Let your white fragility show. So which is it? Are you ready to speak up for all people. Black people being killed by cops. Brown people held in cages. Learn how to deal with it, learn how to combat it, learn how to better yourselves, or not? I know it is hard. I know it is hard to look at your overtly racist family member and say, “Stop. That is is not okay.” But if you don’t do it, who will?
I don’t know if I helped on Friday. I know I made my day a mess. My nerves were shot, and I just slipped into the hot tub with a glass of wine to forget it all. Isn’t that nice that I can do that? And I know I made mistakes. I know I reacted strongly to people, or didn’t truly understand what they were trying to say, all because I didn’t let it sink in. And I always welcome anyone to message me. To tell me how my words made them feel, even if it is anger. But I won’t tolerate passive-aggressive remarks, or blanket statements aimed at me. Like when the teacher yells at the whole class because they are mad at one student. Call me out on it, I don’t mind. You’ll feel better, and maybe I will have learned to see things from a different point of view. Or maybe I’ll realize you are a crazy person and unfriend you, who knows! And remember, that street goes both ways, y’all. You’ll never offend me if you need to unfriend me for your mental health. I will only respect you more.
Stay safe and sane, y’all.
Now if you have read to the bottom, thanks! And if you really want to educate yourself, and you really want to try to do better then do what I have been doing for months. Read books about how to be anti-racist. Follow accounts that teach you how to help the Black Community. I’m leaving some suggestions below.
The Conscious Kid on Instagram
Rep. John Lewis
Rachel Elizabeth Cargle
Dr. Bernice King/The King Center
Brittany Packnett Cunningham
The hashtags: #BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #IRunWithAhmaud #JusticeForBreonnaTaylor