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How to respond to “riots never solve anything!”

Clutch your pearls less and speed up your efforts for racial equality if you’re so offended by property damage.

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A quick roundup of things to say to Saltine Americans clutching their pearls over rioting and looting:

1) “Rioting never solves anything!”

This country was founded on rioting (and looting). The colonists didn’t politely ask to be independent — they started a war. Gays threw a brick. Black people rioted all over this country. Please let go of that falsehood and pick up a history book.

2) “Rioting just gives people a reason not to support your cause.”

Only if you equate property damage to human lives, and in that case, were you really supporting our cause anyway? If all it takes is people stealing from Target for you to say “well…now I don’t care about dead Black people” then why are we even speaking?

3) “The rioters are criminals and they don’t even care about police brutality stuff.”

There are criminals among us in every group, whether peaceful or violent, but the reasons riots break out are varied and complicated. Look at the pictures of Minneapolis before anyone ever threw a rock or started a fire or stole anything — the police firing rubber bullets and cans of tear gas into crowds of people who WERE peacefully protesting. What do you do when you’re frustrated and upset and no one is listening to you? Better yet, what do you do when they’re not only refusing to listen but actively trying to cause you physical harm to shut you up? Do you go home, stand there peacefully, or get mad and try to hurt them back? Does it really matter who you hurt at that point? Would you try to hurt someone in full tactical gear holding a weapon or would you try to hurt something like a multi-billion dollar business with insurance that probably contributed to the decimation of Mom & Pops in your community? Do you want to actually DIE in that moment or are you just upset and frustrated and at your breaking point and you want to smash something?

4) “Being frustrated is no reason to be violent.”

Everybody reacts to stress differently. I have no desire to riot. That’s not how my frustration at the world takes root. It doesn’t manifest itself as a roiling mass of energy that needs to be released, but I can understand how it could in others. Look at the situation.

— We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and many of the people on the front lines (making sure YOU can be comfortable at home) are Black people risking their lives for minimum wage, dealing with entitled white folks every single day.
— The virus itself is affecting Black people to a higher degree because we’re denied access to health services and we’re forced to WORK during it.
— Even in the middle of a pandemic when most of the country sat at home for weeks, civilians being murdered by police did not see a downward turn AT ALL. We’re on track for the same number of deaths we saw last year.
— All week, every day, a new video of Racism in America. From white women using the police as their personal security service to elderly women being tackled by cops with guns drawn to another Black man who can’t breathe, murdered by a cop who should’ve been fired a long time ago.

How do you feel about your country when people who look like you have to work through a pandemic, are dying in larger numbers from the disease, have the police called on them over a dog leash, are told they’re trespassing on property they pay rent for, are brutalized by armies of cops, and are killed in broad daylight for the crime of jogging?

How do you feel? How would you react? Regardless of how you would react, how can you tell someone else how they should? People are ANGRY. They have a right to be angry. And I can’t tell someone else how their anger should manifest. Because they are grown and TARGET HAS INSURANCE! I promise you Target will be just fine!

5) “Attacking an elderly disabled woman is a step too far!”

That woman is 30, she can walk just fine, and she went to Target armed with a knife to stab Black people. That’s why WHITE PEOPLE unloaded a fire extinguiser at her — because she was a violent maniac. On one side, people stole stuff from a big box retailer. On the other, someone STABBED PEOPLE UNPROVOKED, and yet your concern is whether anybody successfully stole a TV?

6) “There are better ways…”

Keep working on those better ways. Don’t let the riots stop you. Fight for criminal justice reform, fight for income equality, fight for universal healthcare, fight for free education, fight for higher taxes on the 1% — fight for all those things that would make rioting less likely. And while you’re fighting the long, slow war toward Black people having a fair shot in this country, the same war we’ve been fighting for hundreds of years, there will be times when some people directly affected by the war see your actions as futile and they just wanna break some stuff. Clutch your pearls less and speed up the war if you’re so offended by property damage.

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Race

There is no “both sides” argument for racism.

If you are a “tolerant” white person who just wants everyone to get along and put aside our differences — stop saying it to Black people. The people reacting TO racism are in no way comparable to the people enacting that racism in the first place.

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White people are so desperate to assuage themselves of the guilt of being associated with their racist skinfolk that they will put themselves through every variety of mental gymnastics to imagine a balanced playing field between “extremists on either side.”

There are definitely Black people who hate white people on sight. I’ve heard them at cookouts and on the street corner and in my mentions.  And that’s where they remain.

White people who hate Black people run the country.

Racist white people are elected officials, police officers, and judges. A few of our uncles saying “kill whitey” does NOT compare to white politicians seeking to disenfranchise us, judges sentencing us to prison for longer terms, and cops planting drugs on us or killing us with impunity.

The scales are not balanced. Black extremists do not perpetuate the cycle of racism in the United States because they do not have the power to do so. For every single hotep railing against The Man or every single loudmouthed “cracka this, cracka that” uncle at the family barbecue, there are ten racist white people with the power to legally deprive us of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. And that power is granted to them explicitly by the jobs they hold in government and law enforcement, but it is also granted to them by dint of being white. Picture a “racist” Black woman claiming a calm white man in a suit is threatening her. Now picture a racist white woman claiming a calm Black man in a suit is threatening her. Only the prejudice of one of those people is life threatening to the other party.

If you are a “tolerant” white person who just wants everyone to get along and put aside our differences — stop saying it to Black people. The people reacting TO racism are in no way comparable to the people enacting that racism in the first place.

If you stab me in the neck, and I watched people who look like you stab people who look like me in the neck for the past 400 years, and I get frustrated and cut your your finger with a pocketknife, there is no both sides argument. You tried to kill me. I cut your finger. Neither of us should have done that, but how can you possibly equate the two?

That’s racism in America. White people keep stabbing us in the neck and their “let’s get along” skinfolk want us to put away our pocketknives.

 

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Race

How to respond to “but look at all the Black on Black murders in Chicago!”

These are the facts you need to present to your racist friends and family members who only care about Chicago when it’s time to trample over the validity of Black Lives Matter. Memorize them and keep them in your pocket because this particular myth about race and crime is one we can easily do away with.

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Every racist’s favorite word is Chicago. I’m serious. Even moreso than the n-word, because — even though they do love to say it — a lot of them aren’t completely stupid and they know if they say it in front of the wrong person they may in fact get popped in the mouth. Nobody is throwing a punch over “but Chicago!”

(But they might soon, and I would love to see it.)

Part of the reason Black people don’t get as upset at “but Chicago!” is…we kind of agree, amongst ourselves, in our own community, AWAY from the white eyeballs who are reading this post right now. I would feel like a traitor saying that all out loud, but this is about to get good y’all. Stay with me here.

Michael Harriot (@michaelharriot) just blessed me with a pile of information that I never knew existed, never bothered to look for, and never even formed a concept around in my mind. I retweeted his thread on Twitter (so if you have Twitter, just go there and read it and retweet it), but I know a lot of my followers are social media averse and a Twitter thread isn’t most folks’ preferred method of receiving information. But I just want to be clear: all of the statistics and figures I’m about to drop down here were absolutely swiped from that thread. I just wanna give these numbers as much exposure as I can because I think it’s a very important understanding of the facts.

We’ll start with the factual information that makes this conversation uncomfortable to have in mixed company: Black people make up 13% of the population and commit 50% of the murders.

Even starting at that “fact” you should keep in mind: 1) that statistic is for arrests for murder and 2) when that information is presented, it comes across as though each murder is being committed by a different Black person, when in reality, criminals usually commit many crimes.

But Michael has decided to give White America and the justice system those two points, that every Black person arrested for murder actually killed someone AND every murder victim was killed by a different Black person. That is a lot of Black murderers Michael is prepared to offer up for this discussion, and we appreciate that because it gives white deflectors nowhere to go later. Now take these two charts together, murders vs population breakdown.

Honestly, he could’ve stopped right there and it was enough to sit me down, shamefully, and examine why I thought the percentage would be much higher. The way crime in context with race is framed in this country, we all — not just white people — grow up thinking Black criminals are a blight upon the land. From Hollywood to the local news, most of the violent criminals we see on television are Black. Most of the good guys (and not good in a specifically Law vs Crime sense, but just main characters in a romantic comedy or drama or 30 minute sitcom) are white. From the time we’re born, we’re brought up on a steady diet of visual media where there is a spectrum of white people presented to us alongside a much more narrow view of Black people. It seeps into your psyche without thinking, and most of us, regardless of color, are laboring under the impression that a much higher percentage of Black people are criminals than the percentage of white people.

It’s BASICALLY THE SAME. And part of the reason we have that impression is due to the overreporting of crime on television. Crime is down. It keeps going down. You were more likely to be abducted and murdered in 1960 than you are now, but all the movies set decades ago show kids riding their bikes all day and traipsing through the woods without a care in the world. Today, we have busybody parents calling the cops on single mothers who leave their kid in the food court (within eyesight) while they have a job interview at the mall so they can provide for their child.

(That really happened.)

Anyway, back to the facts.

Now that we got that outta the way, those facts may not completely shut down the conversation. When white people seek to discredit Black Lives Matter, they use “but Chicago!” as a way to say “Black people kill each other way more than cops do, so why don’t you talk about that huh!?”

First of all, crime itself is largely INTRAracial, meaning most victims of a crime are the same race as the criminal. 89% of Black murder victims are killed by Black murderers, and 81% of white murder victims are killed by white murderers. (x) So that’s a wash, and there’s your answer to that part of the argument.

As far as discussing it, We The Black Community absolutely discuss crime in our community, far more than white people do, even though, as we saw earlier, we have the same percentage of murderers in our ranks. We’re always talking about it and part of the reason is we have the same perception you do, that the Black murder rate is a much bigger problem than it really is. The media has told us that Black on Black crime is out of control and the news keeps interviewing white people who wonder why we never talk about it. White people don’t hear about it because we don’t need to have our inside conversations outside. There are a lot of things I talk about with Black people that I don’t talk about with white people, and that’s just on a small interpersonal scale. I have a whole Black Men’s Brunch I started because we like to have conversations away from y’all.

Pause for a bomb photo op, because the sun was blessing us on this day in particular:

Also, none of the men in this picture are murderers. And we are smiling. Look! Smiling Joyful Black Men on your screen! What a moment, right?

So there we have it y’all. Those are the facts you need to present to your racist friends and family members who only care about Chicago when it’s time to trample over the validity of Black Lives Matter. Memorize them and keep them in your pocket because this particular myth about race and crime is one we can easily do away with.

Numbers don’t lie. It’s all in the perception of those numbers. Change the viewpoint.

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Race

What I’ve learned as a Black man.

There’s a heavy weight that comes along with being Black in America, and a lot of us are tired all the time.

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The first time I realized white people could do things I can’t, I was about 8 or 9 years old. I grew up in the rural South and it wasn’t uncommon for my mom to tell me to run into a store and grab something while the car idled at the entrance. I loved it; I was a big boy. She sent me into K-Mart to buy something (I don’t remember what it was anymore), and on my way out, the theft detection sensor went off. A white woman was leaving at the same time I was, but the greeter stopped me, called a security guard on me, told me to stay put while he waved the white woman on and told her to have a nice day. I wasn’t in the security office for very long before my mom, who sensed I’d been gone too long, rescued me and took me home.

I learned to wait until the doorway is clear before I leave a store, so someone else’s theft doesn’t land me in handcuffs one day.

I was a very independent 16 year old. My parents gave me a lot of leash growing up, and I had gone away to boarding school. One summer I went to visit a white friend and stayed longer than I meant to. We had gone to the movies, had dinner, and just loafed around his house for hours when I realized it was dark and very late. I got in my car and left. Maybe a mile after I left his gated community, I saw flashing blue lights in my rear view mirror. I pulled over, waited for the cop to tell me a taillight was out or something, but I hadn’t done anything wrong. He just wanted to find out where I had been, where I was going, why was I out so late, and whose car I was driving.

I learned not to stay out past dark in rich white people neighborhoods.

I grew up on the internet spending hours on “social media” before it was a thing — freeopendiary, xanga, livejournal, etc. — and I’ve made a lot of really good friends through these keyboards. One of my best online friends is a DJ with a big heart and a helpful spirit. She’s also a Black woman. A white friend of hers asked if she could give another guy a ride, a white man she didn’t know, but who was friends with her friend. She did. When the cops pulled them over, he deposited his drugs under the seat of her car, and the police accused her of being a drug dealer and a prostitute. They told him to have a nice night while they took her to jail.

I learned not to let strange white people in your car.

I’ve had many brushes with the NYPD in the decade since I moved to NYC and each one taught me something different.

I was fumbling with my keys one night to get into my building and two police officers stopped me, questioned me, and frisked me. I told them that’s where I lived, but I still had a South Carolina’s driver’s license. I told them to watch me open the door with my key — it opened, obviously — and they still weren’t convinced. They came upstairs with me while I got a bill with my name and address on it.

I learned to have my keys out and ready before I get to my door.

I was walking in the West Village blasting Sade in my headphones (as much as one could “blast” Sade anyway) on my way to a bar I hadn’t been to before. The West Village is confusing and when I realized I was on the wrong street, I turned around and walked back the way I came. I didn’t hear the police until they were about a foot behind me yelling at me to freeze. I took my headphones off and they pushed me up against the wall to frisk me, telling me I was behaving suspiciously because I saw their cop car and immediately turned to go the other way, and I ignored their commands. I told them I didn’t hear them because I had music playing and I went the other way because I was trying to find a bar I’d never been to.

I learned to turn my music down at night on deserted streets.

I was walking along 125th Street one night when four policemen came out of nowhere and told me to put my hands up because I fit the description of a robbery suspect in the area. This was around the time Kalief Browder had committed suicide in Riker’s because he was locked up indefinitely for the crime of fitting a description. I thought that would be me. One of the cops slammed me up against a wall face first, which is what saved me. I had been wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie, like this.

When he pushed my face into the wall, the cap was knocked off and my hair came tumbling out. I have a lot of hair.

The frisking stopped and one cop put their hands in my head to see if it was a wig that could be taken off. They were looking for a bald Black man and clearly that wasn’t me.

I almost never wear a baseball cap and hoodie anymore, and I never do at night.

A few years ago, I took a steak to work. I’d gone to Texas Roadhouse and ate way too much bread before the food came, so I only finished about half my meal. It really hit the spot for lunch that day, even though it made me sleepy and I think I only finished half of whatever else I was supposed to do. After my commute home, I was stopped by police officers doing random bag checks. They went through my things and pulled out a knife. I had taken a steak knife to work to cut my steak. They asked me where the container was and I told them I threw it away. They asked me what other weapons I had and I told them it wasn’t a weapon, it was a steak knife. For steak. They asked me where my fork was and I told them the office has forks, but they only have butter knives, which won’t cut a reheated steak. They ran my license to see if I had any warrants and 20 minutes later I was allowed to leave the station.

I learned to cut up my food before I take it to work.

I’m on the Internet a lot. I used to make a living here. I still use the internet to disconnect from my own (non-race related) life struggles because I can push my issues to the side and look at videos of babies eating lemons for the first time or look up new recipes to try or make gifs of Teresa Giudice. The Internet has also become the frontline in the war for justice against police brutality. Social media is littered with videos of Black bodies suffering at the hands of the state.

I learned not to go on the Internet when I’m emotionally fragile.

There’s no revelation at the end of this or wise reflection on life. I just wanted to share my story to let others — especially white people — in on what it’s like to be Black in America and why some of us are angry all the time. My patience for white whining is low. My empathy for white frustration is almost non-existent. My attitude toward white people is malleable and ever changing in relation to white people’s interactions toward ME.

There’s a heavy weight that comes along with being Black in America, and a lot of us are tired all the time. Constantly checking our tone so white people don’t feel threatened, constantly checking our actions so you don’t look suspicious, constantly checking our attire so we don’t look like criminals, constantly checking our white friends’ lackadaisical attitudes toward our own safety when they want to do things you know you would end up in jail or dead for. It’s very tiresome, and on top of that, I’m jealous. My best friend is white. I’m jealous sometimes that he can just…be. When he goes online, there aren’t timelines filled with the latest murder of someone who looks like him. The police have never stopped him. He’s never been turned down for a job because he’s white. He doesn’t have to think about whether his outfit is safe enough for the time of day and neighborhood he’s going to. The President isn’t telling the National Guard to shoot him.

When I was in kindergarten, playing House was my favorite thing in the world. Anybody who knows me will probably say it still is — I love to bake and clean and take care of people and crochet. I was playing with three white kids, two girls and a boy, and I wanted to be the husband. I was told I couldn’t because I’m Black and Black people have Black babies. I didn’t know what “Black” was yet. I thought people just came in different shades like hamsters. Some came out lighter, some darker, some with spots. I told her I wasn’t “Black” because I was brown and she told me it still had to be a white mommy and daddy and a white baby, but I could be the dog if I wanted to play with them. I said okay, but I didn’t get to play much because they said I was an outside dog and they just tied a string to my wrist, said it was a leash, and tied the other end to the leg of a table.

As I grew up I learned that some white people will always want you to be the dog.

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