Advocate Editorial Board
In light of discussion and media attention surrounding the recurring phenomenon of unarmed black men — and children — dying at the hands of police officers, America has been hurled into a discussion of race and law enforcement.
During the conversation, certain white people have somehow found a way to take personal offense in being forced to acknowledge the violence black Americans are subjected to on a daily basis by people entrusted to protect the safety of all citizens.
Despite the fact that some people think it’s up for debate about whether a 12-year-old deserved to be executed in the street, despite an officer being recorded choking a black man to death and facing no punishment, despite Darren Wilson not only escaping punishment for shooting an unarmed teenager, but profiting from it as well, there are some white people who still feel attacked by the mere discussion of racism in the United States.
But here’s the thing — calling out racism does not equate to hating white people. It equates to hating racism. If you don’t categorize yourself as a racist, there really is no reason to take offense.
More importantly, this conversation is not about white people. The feelings and comfort of white people cannot continue to be prioritized over justice for racially-motivated violence.
The process of seeking that justice has to start with full acknowledgement that the issue of police brutality in America is not only a power issue, but also a racial one. Though some might argue that race didn’t play a role in the shooting of Mike Brown, the Klansmen amongst Darren Wilson’s supporters celebrating his non-indictment would indicate otherwise.
This is why the refrain “black lives matter” shouldn’t be derailed with “white people matter” or “all people matter,” because that should be obvious at this point. We’re saying black lives matter because they do. We’re saying black lives matter because black people have been told throughout history that they don’t. We’re saying that black lives matter because saying that black people are important does not negate the importance of white people; it never has and it never will.
And so in the midst of rising tensions in racial issues in the United States, it’s important to avoid derailing imperative discussions about the protests in Ferguson with criticisms of looting and violation of property.
No one approves of looting. No one is happy about the people taking advantage of a terrible situation and destroying other people’s property. No one is advocating for destruction. Who’s especially bothered by it? Ferguson protesters, whom the destruction affects most.
Derailing conversations about racism is not going to resolve anything. Ignoring the issues doesn’t make them go away.
If you’re sick of hearing about racism, help to dismantle the systems of oppression that perpetuate it. The sooner the better. Lives depend on it.