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I probably like you.
Be here now.
Okay, fellow white people. We need to talk.
Let me tell you a story: I was an angry punk teenager. Not violent, but I did a shitton of trespassing, and I got into a lot of screaming matches with cops.
I have never been arrested.
I have never been violently attacked by police. Hell, I have never been seriously threatened by police.
I am fully aware that I’ve survived to adulthood largely on the benefits of my race.
When you are white in America, you get away with all sorts of shit. Have you read this account from a white dude who actively tried to get himself arrested? You should. It’s telling.
So, if that’s your main frame of reference for dealing with law enforcement, it is really easy to assume that when someone else gets targeted by the police, they must have done something really bad. After all, you know the police aren’t that petty, right? They’re there to help: That’s what TV tells you, what your teachers told you, what your parents told you. “If you’re in trouble, find a police officer. They’ll help.” And, y’know, if you’re white, most of the time, that’s probably true.
When you’re white in America, it is awfully easy to pretend that you don’t live in a country where the nonviolent physical presence of black people, especially black men, is considered sufficient threat to justify use of lethal force. It’s really easy to pretend that laws are enforced equally; that arrest rate has any demographic resemblance to actual crime rates; that the police are there to protect us from the bad guys.
And, I mean, I get that. It’s a lot more comfortable to pretend that safety correlates to virtue than to confront the ugly truth that a system that benefits you very directly does so at the cost of other people’s lives; that what you were taught was the just reward for being a good person is, in fact, the privilege of your skin. That’s a big part of why we work so hard to retcon narratives about how the black people our police murder must have been dangerous, highlight every casual infraction like it’s a killing spree. We are so desperate to believe that the system that feeds us is just.
It doesn’t feel good to acknowledge that stuff. It feels gross. A system we trusted—one we should be able to trust, that should work for the benefit and protection of everyone has made us accomplice to some deeply horrifying shit.
But here’s the thing:
This happened. This is happening. Not recognizing it; stonewalling and insulating ourselves in our little bubbles does not make it go away.
And not acknowledging it, not having asked for it, does not make us any less complicit, or any less responsible for owning and fixing this. We are actively benefitting from a fucked, corrupt, murderous system. That is on us. As it should be.
So educate yourself, get the tools, and start dismantling this fucker. You have the time: after all, no one’s shooting at your kids.
Privilege is the bandwidth to speak up and dismantle because you’re not in fear for your life. And there is no conscionable excuse for failing to use it. Please, please read the guy trying to get arrested.”
My older brothers, who are both white (different mom), have spent a fair amount of time in jail/prison for various reasons. I once said something to my brother like, “I’m sure you probably don’t feel like you have privilege having been in prison for several years, but—” He stopped me and was like, “Are you kidding? I see black dudes come in for the same stupid shit I do all the time. They end up with life sentences and I’m sitting here talking to you. Any white guy who’s done time should know we’re on completely different playing fields.” Real. Talk.
I don’t agree with people on tumblr who allege cops won’t fuck up white people at protests because i’ve seen it happen: i knew someone personally who had the shit beaten out of them at a protest on my campus, and I’ve seen other instances in the news where this happens.
HOWEVER, for the police to brutalize us white people they need a reason: you have to be committing a crime or being seen as committing a crime or perceived as thumbing your nose at authority somehow or as a threat somehow.
A Black person is automatically seen as a criminal or a threat without doing anything.
When we go to protests, we need to be realistic: even if we are white, we may be tear gassed or injured. But we have a choice: we can decide to not go to protests, we can decide to not commit crimes. It’s wrong that police can brutalize protesters and criminals, but we as white people don’t get attacked out of the blue for no reason. And our chances of being brutalized even in protests or if we have committed crimes are smaller.
We are not terrorized daily, or burying our nieces and nephews and cousins and sons and daughters over and over for being killed for their race. We have white privilege, so once we go home from protests, we are safe from cops. We are safe from cops while grocery shopping or going about our daily lives. We don’t have to worry about being killed by a cop before graduating college. In fact, if we call cops for help they will protect us. So we need to recognize the vast differences.