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White People, Can We Please Stop Saying…?

Below are some phrases I’ve seen on my Facebook feed in response to the Baltimore Riots. On one hand, I’m so glad that this is a subject many of my (white) friends and family are willing to touch now. It shows a lot of bravery to write about such a volatile issue in such a public space. On the other, can we please, please stop saying the following?

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

We are not a classroom of grumpy kindergartners. Nobody took anyone else’s crayons away. No, the system put in place to protect our people and their children has murdered those children in cold blood with no retribution or recompense. For decades. It’s time to face the facts and say something that addresses the magnitude of the situation and the depth of grief these people hold.

“We should just wait for the facts to come out.”

I don’t think you really need another example of police brutality against people of color to come to the conclusion that we have a big fucking problem. I think you’re just a wannabe-intellectual turd trying to sound like the voice of reason in a time that doesn’t make sense to you.

“Violence doesn’t solve anything.”

Uh, yes. Yes it actually does. In fact it’s been the go-to solution for the white people of this country since, say, the Revolutionary War. Maybe violence won’t bring about the results we want – a country unified and protecting the equal rights of all people. But after several decades of slow-to-no progress on the civil rights front, I believe this violence is justified, and this rage is so fucking righteous I’m expecting parting seas and swarms of locusts any day now.

“Not all police officers…”

No, I get it. This is absolutely true. In fact, I believe most police officers do what they do to preserve justice and the peace. However, the system supports and protects those who abuse their power. We are responsible to change this, not the police force. Us, the people. This phrase takes attention away from the bigger problem because we tell ourselves it’s just a few renegade police officers in someone else’s town, when in reality it’s systemic problem that affects us all.

These are things we say to make ourselves feel better because we don’t really know what to say. No one has the answers. And, to be honest, I think talking about race the wrong way is better than not talking about it at all. So I’m sort of weirdly grateful my feed is filled with chatter about race conflicts. But can we at least move away from these empty words towards a more meaningful conversation, one that acknowledges the pain and depth and complexity of the situation?

Because what we’re really saying when we say these things is:

“I am unwilling to acknowledge systemic, unjustified police violence against people of color in the face of overwhelming evidence because if I acknowledge the problem I will feel guilty until I do something about it, and I’m lazy/a coward.”

And we can do much, much better than that.

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