Sunday, April 26, 2015

Conversation about Mike Brown part II

Names and identifying details have been changed.
My friend is an white man in his 60s. (I am a white woman in my 20s.)
Conversation shared with permission. Bold added.
I don't share this because I think I'm a great example of conversing on this subject! I have a lot to learn. 
But sharing this is helpful for me and hopefully helpful for you.

If our major point of disagreement is a "a national crisis of policetargeting black people" or " a national crisis in the USA with whites hating blacks," [I'm quoting his summary of my words] I want to focus on that. I would phrase it differently, maybe saying the black people are unfairly treated in all levels of the justice system, and that racism all many sorts (some blatant, some subtle) deeply influences America today. If you are willing to consider that these things could be true, I’d like to collect some worthwhile evidence and have a better conversation when I see you in person in [a few months]. I know that I’m young, and it can be weird to have this conversation with someone who lived through the Civil Rights Movement in the South. But I feel like I’ve been taught all my life that racism is over- it’s been cured! White people want to believe America promotes equality and fair opportunity, and these are good things to want- but pretending the fight is over requires closing our eyes to injustice.

All blacks are mistreated at all levels, all the time? I think not. In whites and blacks there is a portion of people that hate the other and always will. Thelaw can not change that attitude. Are some cops targeting blacks, sure. Are some blacks unfairly b******* about how badly they are treated, sure. There is a film by Chris Rock to black peopleto just shut up, another stage show he attacks n******. Bill Cosby is a vocal about how some blacks act and their actions. Are there anti-black laws on the books and enforced, I do not believe so. Are there black people who prey on black people, you bet, several in [my town] have been convicted of such. Three in [my town] are under indictment now. Black and white. Your judgment assumes vast groups of whites are out to get blacks. Name names. Yes, we will talk. 
[shared Jon Stewart’s Race/Off video]

"Allblacks are mistreated at all levels, all the time" This is a goofyassessment of what I said. But I'm concerned that you aren't taking blackpeople's stories seriously. [My friend] shared the Jon Stewart video onfacebook today too, with this comment: 
True story, I teared up alittle bit after he said that last line. When you hear people say things like"playing the race card" and "it's not about race" over andover again it kind of feels like being called crazy when you are not, in fact,crazy. It communicates to your non-white friends that you don't care about thevery real struggles they face every day. I am blessed by many of my non-black,and especially white, friends who have tried to enter into these struggles withme. I hope that those who are unable or unwilling to see that this is aboutrace will become open to change.

I have known worked with and befriended many blacks in my 69 years, even went to school with blacks in [a New England town. He mentions this because his family moved south when he was young, where he attended a segregated school until high school graduation.] Never have I heard of the calamity you speak of in your message. Seems the sky is falling to you. Why not check your sources thoroughly. In the early days of the internet a famous and excellent reporter held a news conference shouting about a special evil that was going on. He got his info from the internet. Quickly the gathering crowd told him it was a hoax, a fabrication. He was disgraced. I see hoaxes and hyperbole on the internet constantly. Be sure of what you are championing.

I'm making a list. I'll share all my sources with you so you can tell me why they're all wrong.

This is greatly distressing to me. I don't know why you'd think I just read a website or two and became worried about racism. Disbelieving the daily lives of many Americans seems baffling to me. I'm sorry your black friends haven't talked to you about racism, but it isn't their job to educate you. And it's possible they didn't think the conversation would be welcome. Maybe some of them haven't experienced much racism- hooray! But saying it doesn't happen to some doesn't mean it isn't common. I have black friends too, and I'm trying to listen to them. They aren't trying to scam me, and it's hard not to be offended by the suggestion that they are.

I’m so confused that you’re acting like I’m a conspiracy theorist. Did I scare you because I used the word “systemic?” Maybe we don’t agree on what that means? I’m trying to imagine what you think I think. Maybe that there is a room somewhere that has 12 white men who are plotting to kill all black people, and they tell all the judges and cops what to do? 
Just to be clear, I don’t think that. (Although that sort of problem sounds easier to expose and solve.) I use the word systemic because it’s widespread. Our racist history is still present in laws, practices, attitudes and beliefs. Although Jim Crow laws have ended, although it’s not “okay” to lynch black people, racism is still there in more subtle ways. It isn’t really subtle enough for white people to ignore it, but it is our privilege to do so. We like to pretend stories like Mike Brown's are isolated incidents, and try to justify them.

First off this will be a short message, hand is shaking too much.  I love you and think of you as a daughter.  I will never go out of my way to be negative to you or talk down to you.  Hopefully we can have an adult conversation with each other. I will hold my end as best I can. I love you.

I'm sorry, I got worked up. I love you too. Thanks for saying that.

This past week I have had a black male nurse in my house [treating] me. [Friend is dealing with a medical problem.]  We have talked and solved world problems.  He is mature man with 23 years within this country from Nigeria. I asked him about his experiences with law enforcement and people in general.  He reported to me of never having a problem and is curious how come so many black people have so much trouble and do not advance.  He came here without anything and worked his way up including schooling in nursing and has a masters.  We had a lengthy discussion on the subject. 

Yesterday I got to go to the gym and get some exercise  in, while there I struck up a conversation with a young black man. College educated, well spoken, just a gentleman.  He reported a different view point, as he and his brother had an odd experience with police. He said that many police do not know how to react with black people.   We had about a 20 minute conversation that I let him do most of the talking.

So two conversations with two black men, different results, different back grounds.

Really glad to hear you've been having some conversations. Hope you get to have more

And thank you for having this conversation with me. I appreciate it a lot.

Shared on Friend’s wall: 
tagged with me to read. 
(He didn’t write it, but it has 265,00+ shares, and many comments like “I hate thugs!”)
Today a funeral was held for a young black man that was tragically killed. Minutes before he was shot by a police officer with a perfect record he robbed a convenience store and roughed up the manager. The young man also tested positive to pot in his bloodstream. The rest of this is yet to be determined due the ongoing investigation. 

The problem I have with this is that this tragic death is that its been the top news story for weeks. The young man that for sure robbed a store and attacked its manager has been made into a heroic victim and martyr before the full story is revealed. His funeral today was attended by political leaders, famous entertainers and thousands of people that paid homage and respects to him. The event was televised on national TV on almost every channel. 

The most troubling thing to me is that a United States Marine from Wilmington named Sgt. Arron Torian was recently killed defending this country. He had a perfect record and spent many years of his life rising to the rank of Sergeant. While his family, friends and fellow Marines paid their respects, there were no stars of entertainment or national public figures or national coverage at his funeral. No pictures of him lining the streets of Wilmington and no protesting the Islamic fanatics that killed him. Just those that truly loved him. 

What we do know...minutes before he died, Michael Brown was robbing a store and beating up a clerk. Minutes before Arron Torian died he was defending his country. One got a national heroes funeral and the other did not. This experience tells a lot about the integrity of those public figures, stars and news media. I makes me wonder where our values and have gone. 

Thank You Sgt. Arron Torian and all those Marines that have died for this many times ungrateful nation.

Ginger commented:
Honoring one man does not negate honoring the other.

I have a lot of problems with the post about the Marine on your wall.
1.    Although at least the author said it was tragic that Mike died, it’s irreverent to his murder that he may have robbed a store and shoved someone. Or that he may have  smoked pot. (That’s a fun new accusation- hadn’t heard that yet.) Not only was the officer unaware of those things, but none of them are worthy of the death penalty. They are distractions to impugn Mike’scharacter and let white people feel okay about his death. 
2.    Yes, this has been in the news. But not all of the news coverage has been positive. Much of it has been spent victim-blaming and blaming protestors.  I’m glad this is in the news, because it’s shining a bright light on the systemic issues we’ve been talking about. 
3.    Comparing this to a fallen soldier is a bad choice. First, who says Sgt. Torian wants to be used this way? Maybe he’d be supporting Mike Brown’s family right now if he could. Maybe he wasn’t soldier to get national applause and recognition. Second, who’s to say Mike Brown’s family and the citizens of Ferguson are ungrateful to the military? Why is this post making so many unsubstantiated suggestions?
4.    Like I said on your wall, honoring one man does not negate honoring the other. The 24-hour news media could take time to mention every soldier who has died. I’d be okay with that. But I think this comment goes deeper into white fears- if we give black people time, respect, a platform for their voices, power in this country- maybe nothing will be left for us! We need to be the loudest voice, or we’ll lose our power!
5.    I dislike this use of the word “values.” I value the military. I also value black lives and black voices. Values aren’t just the property of the conservative side of politics. 

[thumbs up, like symbol]

If you agree with me, you could take down the post and make a statement about it

I will look back at it

Anything to add to this conversation? No problem if you need a break. I’d like to post the updates if it’s okay with you. When you have time, check out the note I posted, “an incomplete systemic racism list.”


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