Can we all just be honest? Really honest – with ourselves and with the people around us. I’m looking for some OUT LOUD honesty about some deep, dark shit right now.
In case you hadn’t heard a man was pulled over for a supposed seat belt violation in Columbia, SC a few weeks ago. He pulled into a gas station and exited the vehicle. The cop pulled in behind him and asked to see his license and registration. The man turned and leaned into his car to get those things and the officer started yelling and shot the man in the hip.
Guess which one of them was Black.
You didn’t have to, did you? You were already picturing the driver as Black. You weren’t wrong.
Guess which one of them ended up bleeding and handcuffed AND APOLOGIZING on the ground. Yes. While asking the cop why he was shot he was also apologizing, over and over. Why? Because he was probably scared of being shot again.
If you’re sick of hearing about this – if you’re tired of people bringing this up or you feel like we’re harping on something please take a moment and think about how fucking tired we are of being terrified.
Honesty – I almost didn’t write this. Who am I? I’m not a ‘real’ blogger – whatever that is. I don’t have a large following or a lot of experience. I’m not a reporter or a sociologist. Shit, I had a baby with a White guy so on the scale of who should be scared for their son I’m not even… WAIT! STOP!
That is the shit that institutional racism does. It helps to keep people silent. It leads to thoughts like I should be less terrified than a mother with a darker skinned son. Which means I’m somehow accepting the premise that in AMERICA in 2014 a mother should have to worry about her son being shot or killed over a SEATBELT VIOLATION.
So what can we do?
Well, maybe we could start by telling the truth. The dark and ugly truths. All of them. We are taught in this country that Black Men are dangerous. We are taught by our government, by our families, by the media – it is in the damn ether. We’re all taught this, Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native American – it doesn’t matter who you are the message is the same.
So maybe instead of saying ‘urban’ we could just say Black.
Instead of saying a neighborhood is ‘sketchy’ just say that poor Black people live there.
Replace ‘thug’ with scary Black guy.
Stop and think about what we are thinking and what we are saying. Think about the casual racism, bigotry and prejudice that exists in our everyday lives. Call yourself out. It will hurt. It will, at the very least, be uncomfortable. I don’t really care. I don’t really care that it makes you a little uncomfortable to admit that you don’t trust people who don’t look like you (or who do). That you are surprised when the young Black man you encounter speaks well. That you think ‘articulate’ and ‘pretty for a Black girl’ are actual compliments.
We don’t have to come up with a plan, we don’t have to elect better leaders or enact legislation. We don’t have to screen cops for racist attitudes or educate them about the fact that most Black men are not dangerous. We don’t have to march or give speeches.
If every single one of us – if just you – will honestly look at yourself, call yourself out on your own shit, name it and bring it into the light then I promise you things will change. It has to be personal and it has to start right now. I don’t care who you are or where you come from I can promise you that there is some racist/bigoted/prejudiced crap floating around in your head.
You can stop it. You can start to notice when you have these thoughts and you can question where they come from. You can ask yourself if it’s bullshit. You can take a deep breath and shake that shit off. You can do this over and over.
And then? Then you’ll start to see the racist messages in the movies, music, commercials and TV shows. You’ll start to recognize the coded language and the fear mongering from the politicians.
And then? You may even start to call out others on their crap. You may start to demand honesty from family and friends, from leaders and would be leaders.
And then? You may start to vote differently. You may start to demand change. You may become a real ally to the families of the hundreds of Black men and boys who are shot and killed each year in this country by police and security guards. You may even raise a cop or security guard who doesn’t kill an unarmed Black kid.
This isn’t an easy solution. This doesn’t shift blame to anyone else. You are not absolved. YOU HAVE WORK TO DO.
So do I. We all do.
And it will be hard and it will hurt. Everywhere we will get messages that we are being too tough on ourselves or on others. That we are crossing the line into political correctness, that we are soft on crime or that we do not support our police. There are tentacles of racism and bigotry everywhere and they will tell you that this isn’t that big of a problem. Or that it isn’t your problem. It can’t possibly be your problem.
You have blood on your hands.
We all do.
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