Not Being Racist Isn't Going to Be Enough

Here’s a thought: “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist — we must be anti-racist.”

I’ve spent a long time being non-racist, but being non-racist is no longer enough, and it’s never been enough. During the riots in Ferguson and Baltimore I’d argue with Rachael and say things like, “burning police cars is just going to turn more people against you.” I was more focused on law and order and the protection of private property than on the fact that a group of Americans had gotten a raw deal, over and over, since before we were even a country.

When Rachael and I watched Do The Right Thing all I could think about was whether the main character, Mookie, was justified in smashing the plate glass window at the end of the movie. When I pulled up the Wikipedia article, I was ashamed to read this: “Spike Lee (the director) has remarked that he has only ever been asked by white viewers whether Mookie did the right thing; black viewers do not ask the question. Lee believes the key point is that Mookie was angry at the death of Radio Raheem, and that viewers who question the riot’s justification are implicitly failing to see the difference between property and the life of a black man.” Bingo.

Michael Brown is shot and killed by a police officer in the middle of the street. Eric Garner is strangled by a police officer on the sidewalk. Tamir Rice, a twelve-year-old boy, is shot and killed by a police officer in a public park. Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott. And on and on. Of course there are complicating factors in these cases and in every case, but why are we so quick to place our entire focus on those details instead of simply stating that this is unacceptable?

You could look at Charlottesville today and say that the nazis and the white supremacists were exercising their freedom of speech, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about the fact that they were shouting “Heil Trump.” You could see it as people exercising their right to assemble, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about the fact that they were assembling around burning torches and flags emblazoned with swastikas. You could even look at the “militia,” with their military outfits and rifles, and decide that they were exercising their right to bear arms, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about the fact that the people carrying swastika flags and shouting “Heil Trump” are backed by their own paramilitaries.

You could look at the demonstration in Charlottesville today and decide that you are a non-racist person, and then not have to worry about the fact that the same racist ideology that we defeated in WWII has taken root here. After all, you’re not a racist person.

Or you could decide that just being “not a racist person” isn’t going to be enough.

I know I usually just post about trips we’ve taken and what food Idara is eating this month, but then I read this: “No one is asking you to devote every second of your life to fighting back. Find joy when you can. But also make your stance clear.” And then I saw these tweets. Enough. I’m making my stance clear.