I think I am a pretty open minded person, but so does everyone right? I am a strong believer in listening and hearing people out as far as their perspectives and lifestyles go. I cannot and will not tell you what you should believe or do just because it is what I believe and do. Most of all, I will respect that people sometimes come from two different sides of the world and just won’t agree on some things. That being said, there are some gray areas or limitations, I should say, that I have when it comes to respecting another person’s opinion and lifestyle. For example, anyone who knows me, knows that there are two huge topics that I promise to fight you to the very end on, those being racism and sexism. And here is where I call for story time!
So, I knew a friend…associate…person that I was particularly fond of. We bonded over healthy snacks, make-up hacks, our awkwardness, our habit of spending an absurd amount of time on Tumblr. Then the incident involving Eric Garner happened, Ferguson happened, several acts of police brutality caught on camera happened, Baltimore happened. During all of these occurrences and more, the person, who we will call J, J spoke up about how she felt about these happenings. Her view included respectability politics stating that “black people are their own problem” and “black people always make it a race issue” and “what about black on black crime?” She also included the idea that white people are greater victims of police brutality and that #AllLivesMatter. On several occasions, I tried to explain to her why what she was saying was problematic and not true for the most part. However, that was until I found out that her father was a police officer. It was at that moment that I just stopped trying because she would never understand what it felt like from the other side of the table because of that very fact, among others.
Now, let me point out a couple of things. J is not black. J is Latina. J didn’t really start interacting with black people until two years ago (not by choice, but because of proximity). J is an avid viewer of Fox News. But, J was suddenly an expert on black people and what we need to do to stop being victims of racism. When it comes to black issues, no one can tell you about them better than Black people themselves. So, white people and non-black people of color really have no reason to say anything in this particular discussion besides one (or more) of the following:
- When is the protest or demonstration?
- What role do I play in the oppression of your people?
- What can I do to help you in your fight to stop this?
Anything other than those three, is deemed unconstructive and unnecessary. Therefore, J was not staying in her lane and infringing on the growth of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Which is the biggest problem that I had. There is no opinion involved in whether a person’s life mattered or not. There is no opinion involved in whether racism kills. Absolutely none. And to go around stating lies and misinformation after your group of friends (who are basically almost all black) have told you several times that police brutality is real, seems like willful blindness and disrespect on J’s part.
I think what hurt me most was the fact that I genuinely liked J, and I still like other aspects of J now. Originally, I was just going to stay away from the topic(s) altogether. But, then I realized how stupid that is because I can’t just stay away from being black. Nor can I allow myself to be friends with someone who is racist. That doesn’t mean I have to be rude to her, but I just actively avoid her. I won’t hold my tongue to make you feel better, the same way I hope that other people won’t hold their tongue to make me feel better.
Tell me what you think. Could I have tried a different method? Have you been in this situation? What role do other races and ethnicities play in the conversation of Black lives?
-a voice from young black america
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