Here in Maine our black population is very small. Since exposure is key to understanding, It can be difficult to talk to us about certain things. Recently some of my white, male friends have told me that because I am black they have had a difficult time talking with me about the Ferguson riots. Here are some frequent comments I hear, along with my responses.
“You’re being paranoid.”
If we tell you something is race-related you can try to understand or you could take us at our word. Do not tell us we are being paranoid. We are not being paranoid. Just as you can know by a look from a significant other that you are in trouble, we know from a look when someone is being racist.
I have been pulled over more times than I can remember, but I know that eight of those times have been while I was walking. There was also a time that I found myself surrounded by six police officers questioning me about my actions while I was standing in front of a soda machine (I was buying a soda). This is the common Black American experience. It is something we live with and learn from every day. This does not make us paranoid. It makes us experts. If a doctor gives you a diagnosis, it is based on years of training and experience. If that doctor says you’ve got cancer it’s not because he’s paranoid. Consider the next black person you see to have a PhD in race relations.
“I don’t get the looting.”
Why do you care about the looting? Focus on the dead teenager, the protestors getting shot, and the journalists getting arrested. That’s the important part here. There is probably a guy out there using these riots to justify cheating on his wife. He’s not important either.
“This isn’t about race, it’s about class.”
No. This is about race. This is clear when you see the difference in choice. As minorities we don’t have a choice. If we don’t take to the streets for our rights, we don’t get them. But if you as the majority don’t take to the streets for our rights, you still get to keep yours. We need to be clear on that because we need you on our side. We as minorities can protest all we want, but if we don’t have members of the majority on our side then it might as well be 1989 while we’re standing in Tiananmen Square in front of a tank. I’m not saying there aren’t elements of class involved in race. There absolutely are. What I am saying is that while both class and race have elements that are both corollary and causal to each other, they are separate issues and to conflate the two only distracts from the situation at hand. If you think that sentence was confusing then you’re starting to see my point.
“What about the robbery?”
The details of the robbery (including whether there even was one) are still unclear. But even if he robbed the store with a bazooka while laughing the sentence for robbery is not death.
“It’s possible race wasn’t even a factor. It could just be police brutality, I mean I don’t see race, so maybe officer Darren Wilson doesn’t either.”