Social Issues

returning to Ferguson

Riot police clear demonstrators from a street in Ferguson

It’s been over a month since police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown.

The peaceful protests that Ferguson officials over-reacted to with horrific abuses of our Constitutional freedoms and what was to me unimaginable police brutality are still ongoing. The people of Micheal’s community are calling for nothing extraordinary: for the Missouri governor to appoint a special prosecutor, and for Darren Wilson to be arrested. Not tried, not convicted, just arrested, as any other man would have been if he’d shot an unarmed teenager in broad daylight in front of multiple eye-witnesses. But instead, it’s been over a month since Darren Wilson disappeared on vacation.

There was intense national interest for a week, maybe two, but the people who initially cared so much are fading away, the initial passion evaporating. I understand why– that first week, I was enraged, and it is impossible to sustain that sort of reaction for very long. Today, when I think about the Brown family and the torture the Ferguson community has experienced for decades, all I can do is grieve, but grief is not enough.

For the last month, I’ve been working on compiling this list of officer-involved shootings. I’ve called and asked my state and federal representatives to sponsor a bill that would require all police forces in the United States (or in my state) to report their officer-involved shootings to a single government body, and for that body to create a public record with all pertinent demographic data, especially race. I would ask that all of you do the same.

It’s also necessary for people like me– and by that I mean white people– to shut the fuck up and listen to black people when they talk about their experiences with the police. To pay attention to stories like Chaumtoli Huq’s, a lawyer, who was arrested because she was waiting for her husband and children outside of a restaurant while they used the bathroom. Or Chris Lollie’s, who was arrested because he was sitting on a bench waiting for his children to get out of school. I don’t care how outrageous you think it sounds, or how difficult it is for you to believe them because you’ve “never seen it” or “it’s never happened to you.” You shut the fuck up and listen.

I want to be a part of the reason why this never ever happens in my country ever again. It will keep happening, and it will be a long time before it stops, but it will never end as long as people like me are only angry once every few years and then we get tired and we start to forget, to stop caring.

We have to take an extremely hard look at ourselves and the things we say– the things we say when we’re hanging out with friends, and something like Ferguson comes up. I know it’s hard, fellow white people, but we absolutely have to stop saying things like “well, being a police officer is an extremely dangerous job. They have to be able to protect themselves” because yes, it’s dangerous but it’s four times more dangerous to be an unarmed black man standing across from a police officer with a gun. We have to ask ourselves what we sound like when our first reaction to a child being slaughtered in his own neighborhood by a police officer is “well, Andy must have done something threatening– and police officers can’t afford to wait” (hint: we sound like privileged racist assholes). It breaks my heart that almost every single conversation I’m in about the intersection of racism and police brutality the reaction I get from white people is a mix of “meh” and “what else do you expect?”

We have to love our neighbor. This sort of love is exhausting, I know, and you’re going to feel like Sisyphus pushing a boulder uphill, and once you start noticing the ways that racism bleeds into every single aspect of our lives you’re going to want to scream and take it all back. Looking outside the white-privilege bubble is hard. Taking the blinders off is going to be overwhelming, and it’s going to make you cry over and over again.

You’re going to feel shame for all of the racist things you’ve said and done, and every once in a while you’re going to remember another way you’ve unwittingly been the person from “shit white girls say,” and you’re going to cringe and desperately wish you could retroactively slap your hand over your mouth or do a full-on body tackle before you ask your black colleague if you can touch her hair.

You’ll be on facebook, and a friend you actually care about is going to share the most racist thing you’ve seen about Ferguson– and, by that point you’ve been on twitter and comment sections, and you thought it couldn’t get any worse– and she’s going to post it with “THIS” and a bunch of your other friends are going to like it and say things like “oh, this is exactly right” and “finally, someone who makes some SENSE!” and you aren’t going to know what to do. And you’re going to keep being racist, because you’re a white person in a system designed around maintaining your privilege.

But then, one day, you’re going to see a black man in the metro asking other riders for “just one dollar” because he has almost nothing left on his fare card and he can’t get home, and pulling out a $10 will be nothing to you anymore because you’ll remember that one time you didn’t have enough cash on you to pay a toll in West Virginia and it was a black woman who overheard you crying on the phone with your mother and she gave you the $16 you needed to pay the next four tolls and you’ll see a person who needs help instead of a wasteful, do-nothing black man who should get a job you’d been taught by racism to see.

It’ll take you a very long time, but you’ll start figuring out how to stop being racist, and start seeing all the small things you can do every single day to help those oppressed by it. It’s the only way to stop Ferguson from ever happening again.

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  • Elmo

    With regard to what friends post on FB, Twitter, G+ etc.

    Most of the dumb stuff I see people posting and re-posting is not their own thoughts. More commonly it’s a photo or a graphic with text superimposed over top of it. Things like “I’m tired of paying taxes to support people who won’t work.” may not seem to be racist on the top level but thanks to a widely-shared unconscious bias most white people of my age (the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn when I was born there) will assume that the “people who won’t work” are the same people that Ronald Reagan talked about when he described the “Cadillac driving welfare queen of Chicago” and the “Strapping young man buying steak with food stamps”. So when one of my friends posts something like that, my response is to add a comment saying “Nice dog whistle”.

    If anyone doesn’t get the reference check out the articles indexed here or better yet read the book by the same author.
    http://www.salon.com/topic/dog_whistle_politics/

  • I never know what to do when I’m asked for money on the street. I almost always say no and keep walking. It’s not a race thing, as I’ve probably been asked equally by people of multiple races. That doesn’t factor into the reasons I almost always decline to give out money. And neither does some idea of the person asking being “lazy”. For me, there’s a few reasons, and while I do feel badly about not often giving money, I do think they are valid reasons and I feel pretty strongly about them.

    One, I think we need to focus on funding homeless shelters and places like that that can make sure the money is more efficiently allocated. I’ve volunteered at a homeless shelter for an extended period of time, and they really do a good job in my experience at being efficient and making sure it helps as many people as possible in as many areas of their lives as possible, from basic necessities, to mental health services, to help obtaining work. I think it makes more sense for me to give my limited time and money to them instead, since I’ve seen how much they really have their clients’ best interests at heart, at least where I was.

    The second reason is related. Many people are on the streets because of substance abuse issues. That is absolutely nothing for them to be shamed for. It is a disease. But I’m making their disease worse if I enable that with money, and I have no way of knowing if that’s the situation or not. You can’t look at someone and know if they are struggling with addiction. again, I’d rather give money and time to shelters and addiction programs than not know if I’m simply making the situation worse.

    The third, and probably the most pressing reason for me, is safety. I have been harassed by many men on the street (of all races; that has nothing to do with it for me). I am worried that if I stop to pull money out of my wallet, I may be harassed, assaulted, mugged, etc. I am just in general very wary of putting myself in any position where a random stranger of any race has me in close proximity to them because of my experiences. I feel this way even about women, because I have also had women be very aggressive about giving them money, and it in general makes me feel vulnerable to be stopping to interact with a stranger for any reason. I’m not likely to ask for directions or anything else either because of this. I also think that the fact that being aggressive about money can work makes it so that unsafe/threatening behavior is encouraged, which makes women who have been harassed feel even more vulnerable, reinforces stereotypes of homeless/disadvantaged people that are actually the exception rather than the rule, and also makes it so the people who need it the most/may be the least likely to ask, are less likely to actually get what they need, due to people’s attitudes and less funded shelters.

    A city I’ve been to had a really cool program that I think solves a lot of these issues. They have little meters around to give change for people who are homeless. It lists on there the organization it goes to and the list of things they help people get through the donations. I believe it stated 100% of the donations went for these things. I think that is a much better way to actually help those who are struggling whether due to hard times, mental illness, or substance abuse (which is a subset of the former), while making the streets safer for women who are fearful of being harassed or worse. I wish I saw them around more. That and encouraging people to donate money and items to shelters, as well as their time. That makes way more of a difference than people think.

    Anyway, sorry for the ramble, but it’s something I feel strongly about when I see discussions refer to giving money to people asking on the street, both because of my experiences with harassment and my time volunteering at a shelter. I know privilege and racism is often a reason people decline to give money, but it’s not the only one, and there are a lot of ways it can do more harm than good overall, and really become a decision between your own sense of safety and a stranger’s request.

    • I also often decline to give money, mainly because if I stopped to give money every time I walked past or drove past a beggar, I’d have no money left for myself. Because I have no way of knowing what this person is gonna be using the money for and I too think about substance abuse issues and I like the idea that if you’re gonna give them the money they’re begging for, think again and consider buying them what they claim to need – they say they’re hungry, try buying them food and handing that to them so they can’t spend your money on cigarettes or booze. They claim they need the money to get home on the metro while inside the metro, and they’re only asking for a few dollars? Maybe you can trust them in that case. But you also could buy them the metro card yourself, if you wanted. It is controlling and “rude” and untrusting of their word, but you don’t know this stranger. I don’t think it’s “racist”. I think it’s reasonable, regardless of race, to act this way. It has nothing to do with race. I feel confident it doesn’t, at least in my own case, because I refuse all of the white people I see doing the same thing, which is actually more common in the areas I’ve lived in than black people. I refuse regardless of how misspelled their sign is, how dirty and ripped their clothes are, all of that. I am more likely to not quite believe they need the cash if they are a white person wearing pristine clothes begging for a relatively large amount money for an unusual purpose (I need 50 dollars for groceries for my family/to buy a train ticket back to my family many states away/etc) but either way I’m VERY hesitant to give it to them, and pretty much never do.

      I would love to be able to help more by giving money to help the homeless in the ways you describe, asoundinthesilence.

      What I have done is give some money to this charity: http://cureviolence.org/ which helps people in the inner city who deal with unthinkable amounts of gun violence in their own neighborhoods. It’s a systematic, proven method to reduce the number of deaths/the amount of violence and it is something that benefits a lot of non-white people. I like to think that this is a good way to begin trying to help. I wish more people would donate to this particular organization.

  • J. Rachel

    Thanks for continuing to talk about this.

    It is amazing to me how when people who fall into certain categories have a need – or a need of a certain kind – their requests are responded to with demonizing accusations and they are “shut down” one way or another.

    What is even more amazing is that this tactic still works. Some people might point it out, but not enough people see through it. Seems like an age old ‘perp tactic to me.

  • I agree with some of the other people here have said about giving money – it has a lot of other considerations for personal safety that may or may not have anything to do with race. I do agree with buying food for a hungry person or the metro card for the person instead of giving them cash – I have found both the reaction of “No that’s okay” which tells me they might have been lying, or the grateful “Thank you so much” for getting them what they needed.
    Otherwise, I very much agree with what you’ve said here. Situations like these are hard for me because I’m literally straddling the fence when it comes to race – I may garner privilege for the color of my skin despite the fact that I have an obviously black parent and many obviously black family members. It’s a double-edged sword. I can empathize with the fact that these things happen, and that these types of things have happened to me at a lesser degree. I hate that this happened in Ferguson, or that it keeps happening, more often than I’ve seen in a long time, and the fact that the media is more silent than it should be on it, that outlets like Twitter are our source of information, that media were being arrested and innocent people being shot. It’s hard to think about, because it can weigh down your entire psyche.
    Anyway….I just wanted to say I like what you’ve said here and ended up writing a book. It happens. 😛

  • Crystal

    Dear Samantha,

    I have a few questions for you.

    1. How can I explain to people who don’t believe in “white privilege” that such a thing is going on?
    2. How can I explain they deny reality? I’ve heard this stuff even from people of other cultures claiming to be Christians!
    3. What do you think of the idea that the term and concept of “white privilege” was coined by fundamentalist Muslims seeking to destroy the great nation of America?
    4. How do the blacks who defy white privilege define blacks being told to “pull their pants up” versus those who deny the concept of white privilege even existing? Also, I’ve heard people complain that black gangs are attacking whites and blacks who are “acting too white”; for those blacks who want to “pull up their pants” (dress properly) and get an education, they’re “acting too white”, says the opposition?

    Those are some of the questions boiling around in my mind. If I think of any more I’ll let you know. I hope you don’t mind my enquiry on this subject; I’ve heard this stuff on both sides swirling around my head and I want to know what’s really going on.

    Crystal

    • Aibird

      Number three is false. Very much false, and people who say that are being ignorant or else willingly lying and distorting truth to further whatever agenda they have. (It’s sometimes hard to tell with these people.) W.E.B. Dubois wrote about it for the first time in the 1930s. He’s an American by the way.
      However, the term wasn’t fully defined and propagated until Peggy McIntosh wrote about it in 1988 in a paper titled “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies.” She’s a white woman by the way. You can read more here: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/the-origins-of-privilege
      Also, that was easy to find. It required googling “history of the term white privilege.” Wikipedia will be the first to appear but the New Yorker piece also appears right away. Women’s studies is a great place to go to learn about this in depth, because they often will cover race as well as classicism, sexism and so forth.
      Your question four makes absolutely no sense to me. Until you give me hard data to prove that ‘gangs of blacks attacking whites” is actually a thing — I can’t find any data on this at all.
      This video pretty much sums up why white people cannot make the claim of reverse racism:


      In order for people of color to have any legitimacy they often have to “act white” in order to try to pass enough. People are pointing out how problematic this is, and also question four shows a distinct lack of awareness about this topic. It’s a lot more complicated then how you portray it, and what you are discussing has nothing to do with “blacks who defy white privilege” or whatever you actually mean by that. People can so internalize the racist system that they become blind themselves, because it’s hard to recognize how racist our culture truly is, and seeing it is depressing and terrifying, especially for people of color. So they may not want to acknowledge how fucked up things are, or they may be in a place of privilege — such as they are in a higher socioeconomical class, and thus have class privilege — and this can blind them to the reality that those who don’t have class privilege have to experience daily. This is why intersectionality is so important.
      Google intersectionality. Also look up feminism sites and women’s studies and read through the theory. DO some research. It will help answer your questions. I just don’t have the time to look it all up for you. so I hope this helps somehow.

      • Crystal

        Dear Aibird,

        I didn’t mean to make you angry or cause offence. I do apologise and will keep looking. I do believe what Samantha says, but I wasn’t asking for myself, AND I AM AWARE THAT BLACKS HAVE TO ACT LIKE WHITES TO GET ANYWHERE IN AMERICA, VERY MUCH MORE AWARE THAN YOU MIGHT THINK. Question 4 was not my question; it was a question that I decided to ask on behalf of someone else who doesn’t see that at all. I was asking for the sake of other people who I know will try to defend and deny this kind of thing.

        I heard these programs put out by this conservative talk-show host at http://www.worldviewweekend.com/radio/audio/brannon-howse-aired-september-8-2014 and http://www.worldviewweekend.com/radio/audio/brannon-howse-aired-september-9-2014, which dealt with the subject of black gangs attacking whites. He claimed it happened to his daughter, and I knew that his program (the first one; I didn’t bother listening to the second one) was off. I will keep researching. I am very sorry if I gave anyone cause to think I was racist. I was actually asking Samantha to help me because I’m aware something isn’t right. In fact, if it wasn’t for her articles I would probably not know any different.

        Thank you for putting me straight. I will be happy to do research at any sites you have recommended. However, I am not an American, but a foreigner, and we do not have many black people where I live. We have other people instead. I think that’s part of the reason for the confusion. Please don’t call me a racist; I am trying not to be and I DON’T WANT TO BE.

        I hope, once again, that you will accept my apology in the spirit in which it is given, and understand that I am a person who has been sheltered and doesn’t know much of the world, rather than an intentional racist. I will keep researching. I’m finding it difficult to explain to people who hear this stuff as they keep telling me all this trash (ie the stuff in the questions that made you so angry) so I decided to post them up to see if someone could help me. I didn’t mean to make it look as if I actually believed the way I was asking. I do believe you, and apologise for offence caused.

        Hoping I will be forgiven,
        Crystal

        • Crystal

          Dear Samantha,

          I didn’t mean to offend you too. I’m very sorry for upsetting anyone here.

          Crystal

          • Crystal

            I do apologise sincerely from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for all offence caused. I’m sorry.

        • Crystal

          You can delete my comment if you like, Samantha. It’s all right.

          • Crystal

            I meant the big long remark, the first one in response to Aibird.

          • Crystal

            Dear Samantha

            On looking back, I can also see some of my phrasing was confusing. I wasn’t meaning to phrase Questions 3-4 as if I agree with them; I was meaning the questions as trying to say it how the other side would say it because I would like some answers that could get me started on the road to helping others to understand what Samantha was kind enough to show me about white privilege and other such things. I apologise for the confusing wording and giving any implication of anything but what I am, and wish to be in my life.

            Thank you for writing the articles, Samantha. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have even heard of the term “white privilege” or the concept at all. I have heard conservatism my whole life, and it has only been the last three years that I have begun to explore the other side.

            I like you, and all the people here, and your blog. I once again reiterate SINCERE APOLOGIES for any and all offence caused, and hope that you and I can have peace together. Please don’t get mad at me; I don’t want to be a troll but rather a regular participant on your blog. I am someone who is naive and knows nothing much of the world outside a rural town far far away from the US. When I hear these things, they make me ask questions. Please tell me, how can I ask these things in a non-offensive manner so that I don’t cause people to get angry with or misunderstand me, and especially so that I don’t cause any offence again? I am willing to be taught, have read your policy and want to abide by it. Please help me so this never happens again.

            Crystal

          • Tim

            Crystal,

            It seemed to me that you were asking questions in a sincere way – to be informed – rather than in a rhetorical way to stir things up. Asking in a sincere way, even from a position of ignorance, is generally not offensive, and it didn’t seem to me than anyone took serious offense. You don’t seem like a troll. Thanks for sharing something about your background.

          • Crystal

            Thank you for understanding, Tim. It’s just that Samantha put my remark in moderation – my long apology to Aibird, and I wanted to be sure I had offended no one. I am a very gentle person and I don’t go out of my way to hurt and bully, cause offence, or pick a fight. I’m especially careful about it online because no one can see my face.

            Thank you for being kind and understanding. I feel so much better about the situation since you wrote in. You can see how distraught I am in my statements and I feel better now thanks to your kind words.

            Thank you so much, Tim. You’re very kind to me.

          • Tim

            Crystal, you seem like a sweet person. You sound young. You’ve said you’re naive, from a sheltered background in some ways, you don’t want to be a racist. The opinions of some people on the internet about who you are is not nearly as important as who you really are inside yourself. Or who you want to become. Aibird had a good suggestion for you – google terms you’re unfamiliar with, do some research. Read some books, read some theory about racism and race relations. I would offer you the additional advice that if you don’t know any black people personally, look for blogs written by non-white men and women. That is another way to hear their voices, stories, perspectives.

    • I can tell you how I came to realize that white privilege is a thing. (I know it’s a book. I’m sorry. I’m the worst.)

      It started because I got my masters in sociolinguistics. One of the primary focuses of sociolinguistics is variation in language, specifically between speakers of different dialects. Prior to taking these classes, I was raised to believe that, if you’re educated, you speak properly. If you’re not educated, you use bad grammar in your language. Having taken the classes, I learned that dialects vary in predictable ways, and even stigmatized dialects are completely rule-based and NOT bastardizations of “good English.” Education isn’t even the best predictor of whether or not someone will use a stigmatized dialect or Standard English; the individual’s commitment and ties to his community (and hence the dialect that community speaks) is a much stronger predictor.

      So my teacher (who speaks VERY Southern English since she’s from the Smokey Mountains) was selling the “stop dialect discrimination” Kool-Aid, and I’m all “I love me some Kool-Aid.” Looking at hard scientific data presented by rigorous peer-reviewed studies showed me that the way I talk isn’t the result of my intelligence; it’s something I was lucky enough to be raised with. My speech, which contributes to those around me perceiving me as non-ignorant and well-educated, is far more a result of a quirk of birth than anything I did. Also, I learned that stigma against certain dialects is NOT random or consistent; dialects spoken by those who aren’t in power (i.e. nonwhites and/or those from rural communities) are FAR more likely to be discriminated against. My mom is from Jersey, and when she drops the occasional “Warshington D.C.,” it’s quaint and amusing, but when a black student “axes” me something, he’s ignorant and can’t read.

      So at this point, I’m still not convinced about white privilege, but I am aware that there is institutionalized discrimination along racial lines, and I know that my speech (which has helped me be successful, especially considering I’m in education) is a product of my white upbringing, not anything everyone has access to.

      So I go to this class for a certification, and the teacher has us do this exercise where we answered questions like “how has your race influenced your behavior and speech?” I don’t remember what I put, but I DO remember that, overwhelmingly, white people put that “I don’t act/talk any particular way because of my race; I just act/talk normally.”

      What.

      They just conflated participating in their unique culture with being normal. That’s when it struck me. The lie I had been told my entire life that all I had to do to avoid being racist was to not do or say overtly racist things ignored the fact that dismissing any culture or behavioral code or speech pattern that isn’t “white” as being “not normal” is fucking racist. Institutionalized racism is a thing, and it’s not something I’ve ever had to worry about. Oh, I’ve experienced individual acts of racism against me, but that’s not even a little bit relevant to the experience of someone who is told on a daily basis that the way her grandmama taught her to talk is ignorant, that wearing her hair like that is unkempt, that behaving the way everyone in her neighborhood does makes her a thug.

      Sooooo… long answer short, ask the person how being white influences how she talks and act. If she says it doesn’t, if she says she just acts normally, you can start a conversation about how normalizing one group over others (like how heterosexuality is normalized in Disney films and the general media) creates a system where anything but the norm is rejected. You can talk about how she doesn’t even have to carefully consider her speech and behavior; she instinctively knows what to do and say to be acceptable to an employer or teacher because she was raised in the system that is considered appropriate.

    • Amanda

      This post and the reply which it received have consumed my thoughts for the past couple of days. I hope to not offend anyone, especially Samantha, but I’d like to share my thoughts.
      While some of the phrasing was a little confusing, and she admitted that and tried very hard to clear it up, I think Crystal has made it very clear in the time she’s been here that she is here to learn and grow (same as me). With that in mind, I thought her post was pretty clear that she doesn’t in fact hold these beliefs, but is rather trying to arm herself with information and gather suggestions for strategies on interacting with people who do believe these things. Crystal, I believe you have a good heart. 🙂
      Pardon the Christianese turn of phrase, but I think we can extend more grace to those who are in a different place in their journey. Crystal has told us she was raised in a very sheltered environment. I think many of us have experienced, at least to some extent, manipulation, brainwashing, and indoctrination as a result of being a part of extremely sheltered/conservative religious groups, whether having been raised in one or joined one later in life- only to get burned either way. I am not saying Crystal is or has been brainwashed, but as we are all well aware, these are tactics employed by religious abusers and we need to keep in mind the journey and process to go from believing one thing, and being surrounded by people who believe that and taught it to you…. to having an epiphanic moment of realizing it’s not right, but then struggling to re-learn things and struggling to interact with those around you, who with authority, believe and teach incorrect things (such as the things Crystal listed in her questions). The writing on this blog is an “ongoing journey in overcoming a fundamentalist indoctrination”, written for the author’s therapeutic benefit, and I would imagine being published online in order to assist others who are also on that same journey. Not everyone has the time or means to take a women’s studies course… I don’t think it should be held against them. The journey is a lengthy one… not everyone is in the same place…. let’s support each other.
      With respect and with you on the journey,
      Amanda

      • Crystal

        Dear Amanda,

        Thank you for understanding. I hope that Samantha and Aibird understand where I am coming from too. I like them and I would appreciate it greatly if they would like me too, and forgive my ignorance, as I am in fact trying to learn and arm myself with information on this thing as I do see it is a huge problem in our Western civilization.

        Crystal

        • Crystal

          Samantha, please let me know that you do not brand me as a racist, and I will be happy.

          • Crystal

            I do once again apologise for any and all offence caused by any and/or all of my remarks in this post that anyone could take offence at.

          • Crystal

            If you find my request offensive not to brand me as a racist, I apologise. I am here to learn, and want to do right by others. That’s why I read your posts.

          • Hey, Crystal– no I don’t think you are a racist, and I could tell your original comment wasn’t about views you personally espoused.

          • Crystal

            Thanks, Samantha! Thank you for reassuring me, and also letting me know that you are not annoyed with my many apologies; you can delete some of them if you like. I think in this particular instance in judging my remark you have behaved with great discernment towards me, and I am grateful for that.

            I don’t want anyone blaming my family for the questions I posted up. They were never the ones to teach or tell or encourage me to believe such rubbish; I picked up the questions I raised from other sources. Me and my family love each other, respect each others’ privacy, spend time together as a family, and work hard, although we each have our own opinions on issues. My family have encouraged the view that I hold that all people are created in God’s image and therefore racism is totally out of the question for someone wanting to do right with their lives so strongly that it’s totally natural for me to think this way. I think it’s partially because my family have a strong tendency to think this way as well, and partially because my family never put me in the way of racists. I remember my mother telling me with great anger in her voice that the Ku Klux Klan were evil – that was the word she used. It’s others who’ve said this stuff, like the man whose programs I referenced above, but my family don’t care two cents for his opinion on many things. I wanted to say that about them because I wish for people who read my remarks about my family to think only the best of them, as I love my family and have found them over the years to be honourable and hard-working people who care about me and each other.

            I think it’s how conservatives define terms such as racism versus how liberals define such terms that cause many of the problems and misunderstandings. I saw with my own eyes (I have been to America but don’t live there), independent of any blogs or Internet access, that blacks behaved in a subdued and quiet manner in the presence of whites, and it angered me greatly. I also have seen that blacks have adopted white culture to survive, including hair styles and colours, and the like. I’ve also seen that the people used primarily in advertising are whites. And it makes me mad. I was aware of all of this – all before I even started reading your blog, or any blog, really; at least, things were developing in my mind for quite a while. I could see something was wrong long before I came face to face with others who tended to speak out against racism done to blacks today. And I’m a foreigner!!!! It’s a right crying jolly shame when a white foreigner can see what so many of the whites in America refuse to admit – that racism is still in America, and is still very much alive.

            I have many more questions in my mind, but I plan to ask them another time, clearly of course, so there is no confusion on the part of any person reading my remarks. Also, bogging you down with my thoughts and opinions too much is not fair to you. You’ve got lots of people to help; I am not the only lost sheep out there. I don’t want to distract the topic onto me. We must stick to the issues at hand and keep trying to help the blacks out of this pit of oppression so that they can succeed and be treated as the citizens they are rather than the scum they are not.

          • Crystal

            I need to add that my family do believe the same beliefs on race that they have encouraged in me.

    • Amanda

      This post and the reply which it received have consumed my thoughts for the past couple of days. I hope to not offend anyone, especially Samantha, but I’d like to share my thoughts.
      While some of the phrasing was a little confusing, and she admitted that and tried very hard to clear it up, I think Crystal has made it very clear in the time she’s been here that she is here to learn and grow (same as me). With that in mind, I thought her post was pretty clear that she doesn’t in fact hold these beliefs, but is rather trying to arm herself with information and gather suggestions for strategies on interacting with people who do believe these things. Crystal, I believe you have a good heart. 🙂
      Pardon the Christianese turn of phrase, but I think we can extend more grace to those who are in a different place in their journey. Crystal has told us she was raised in a very sheltered environment. I think many of us have experienced, at least to some extent, manipulation, brainwashing, and indoctrination as a result of being a part of extremely sheltered/conservative religious groups, whether having been raised in one or joined one later in life- only to get burned either way. I am not saying Crystal is or has been brainwashed, but as we are all well aware, these are tactics employed by religious abusers and we need to keep in mind the journey and process to go from believing one thing, and being surrounded by people who believe that and taught it to you…. to having an epiphanic moment of realizing it’s not right, but then struggling to re-learn things and struggling to interact with those around you, who with authority, believe and teach incorrect things (such as the things Crystal listed in her questions). The writing on this blog is an “ongoing journey in overcoming a fundamentalist indoctrination”, written for the author’s therapeutic benefit, and I would imagine being published online in order to assist others who are also on that same journey. Not everyone has the time or means to take a women’s studies course… I don’t think it should be held against them. The journey is a lengthy one… not everyone is in the same place…. let’s support each other.
      With respect and with you on the journey,
      Amanda

      • Amanda

        Samantha,
        I apologize for the double-post. I posted it as a reply to Crystal’s above post, but it ended up far below it, so I tried again- copied and pasted and it still ended up way below what I was attempting to respond to. Evidently I can’t place the post correctly, but feel free to delete the duplicate post. 🙂

  • Tim

    I really appreciate your returning to this story. I agree with your observations: asking for a special prosecutor isn’t unreasonable, nor is demonstrating when it seems that no one is interested in seriously investigating the officer’s actions. It’s easy to get distracted by the next new things, particularly if the outrage doens’t affect you personally, and a lot of well-meaning people are not personally affected by this tragedy, and, if not tired of it, have just moved on to something else. It seems to me, too, that it’s pretty normal for white people to just not get it. I recently read a statistic that around 75% of white people in the US don’t have a single non-white friend (this Washington Post article explains some of what’s behind that http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/08/25/three-quarters-of-whites-dont-have-any-non-white-friends/ )
    Race in the US is complicated, and law enforcement violence in the US is complicated. But what’s simple is this: the opinions on those topics of a white person who lives in an all-white neighborhood and has zero non-white friends are likely founded in extremely profound ignorance. Someone in that position really should just shut the fuck up. A white person who does have close non-white friends should listen before speaking.
    I have a small critique of the statement that it’s four times as dangerous to be an unarmed black man standing across from a police officer with a gun than it is to be a police officer. I understand (from following your links) how you arrived at that figure, but I don’t think it’s accurate. Would you like help in your analysis of the numbers?

    • Just that police officers fatally shoot four times the number of unarmed people than are simply wounded by gunfire.

      • Crystal

        Samantha, could you please respond to my query above? Thank you if you would; it would mean a great deal to me.

      • Tim

        From the links you gave I can see that the number of civilians killed by law enforcement officers in a year (around 400) is four times larger than the number of law enforcement officers killed or wounded in the line of duty in a recent year (around 100). But if you look at the details (for example January of 2013 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_killings_by_law_enforcement_officers_in_the_United_States,_January_2013 ) you’ll see that of the roughly 45 civilians shot by cops, most of them were armed with a gun, a knife, or a vehicle. From the descriptions, probably less than ten of them were truly unarmed and/or did not pose a threat. (For example, the guy holding a glue gun? Not a real threat!) Check it out and see what you think. The descriptions don’t explicitly state whether the men and women killed were white or non-white. But it seems at first glance that probably “about as many” unarmed civilians of all races are killed by law enforcement officers as law enforcement officers are killed by civilians. But one can’t conclude from that that statistically it’s just as dangerous to be an unarmed civilian facing a cop as it is to be a cop facing a civilian, because the number of civilians is so much greater than the number of cops. Thus your statement as you phrased it above is misleading, although I certainly agree with you that even one unarmed person shot by a cop is too many. And a national database of the type you’ve suggested above to aid in tracking these events certainly seems like it has merit. I apologize for being a math nerd. I know I’m in a tiny minority and some of the people who are annoyed by members of my tribe have perfectly reasonable reasons to be so annoyed.

  • swimr1

    Fantastic post. This situation (Ferguson) and the Trayvon Martin cases have bothered me so much. I live in a very conservative, white, religious area of Texas and I cannot believe the lack of empathy or willingness to try to see these events from any other perspective. Makes me crazy and so depressed about people I otherwise like…