Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Privilege

This morning I can hardly think of anything but Michael Brown's mother. How she had to raise her boy with a different set of rules than I have to raise mine with. How that didn't work, and how her son was killed for an offense so minor that people get away with it all the time. How her boy has been villainized since his death, and how anguishing it must have been to listen to the prosecutor, THE PROSECUTOR!, demonize him in that press conference last night, sounding more like a defense lawyer than anything else. How helpless she must feel...helpless to protect her son, helpless to get justice, helpless to prevent others from misdirecting their rage and undermining the story of her child's killing.

I compare myself with her. What would I do, if I were her? Her composure is more than I can imagine having. And that is my privilege - I can be, could be, hysterical, angry, pleading, enraged, without being seen as the spokesperson of my race. Without being blamed for the protests that followed, as she is being blamed. Her anguish, so powerful, so representative, so gut wrenching...I wanted to throw things after that press conference last night, and that was not my son that Bob McCulloch was talking about. And yet she still didn't tell people to rise up. She could have, and they did anyways, but even though she refrained from doing so, she is being blamed. "Michael Brown's Mother's Tears Turn Crowd From Agony to Action."

I can still tell my boys to go to the police for help. I could still buy them toy guns without fearing the police would kill them for having one. I can write about this from the comfort of my home, safe, educated, far from protests or riots. I can argue about it with those who believe race wasn't a factor, but I won't ever have to experience what it's like to have my race work against me with law enforcement. If my child is killed, he won't be demonized. In fact, it's likely that even if my child were to kill others, he would be treated with more kindness by the media than Lesley McSpadden's boy has been.

And there are those, so many, who don't see this privilege. Who don't want to see it. Who can't see a bigger picture than this one botched investigation. Who ignore systems, who negate privilege because of individual disadvantage, who say "not me," who demand respect while not giving it, who just won't listen. Or won't care. And that's almost more infuriating than those who know they're racist and embrace it. Because it's easier to write them off, the "real" racists. They're a joke, mostly powerless. Who listens to the KKK? Only idiots....but I know so many smart people who discount race. Who advocate colorblindness, and show their privilege blindness by doing so. Who say that Michael Brown should have just cooperated with the cops, and don't see that people of color "just cooperate" all the time and who can't imagine having to live like that, under constant scrutiny, constant surveillance, constant suspicion. Because they don't have to.

I wish that today every white person would just listen to what the black community of Ferguson is saying. To the people of Oakland, of New York, of Chicago. Hear them. Really listen. Don't ignore because their anger is coming out in inappropriate ways. They have been polite for so long, and nothing has changed.

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