A great many of my White friends, and co-workers don’t have the context to understand the answers I give when they talk to me about my experience as a Black American. I actively encourage people to talk to each other with questions about ethnicity and race. That’s the only way that we can tear down the few walls that still separate us as Americans. I had to explain to a colleague that when I nearly had to call the police to investigate people who had climbed the fence on to my property, I knew I would have to take extraordinary measures to be sure I wasn’t shot and killed by law enforcement when they arrived. Being a Black American, in the eyes of a great many people in law enforcement, will automatically put me in a position to be “Guilty until proven innocent.” My colleague didn’t quite get that concept, but I explained that it was because of context. He sees me as the suave, well-dressed, successful part of the team, that happens to be Black. The police will see a man in his underwear or jeans, still groggy from waking up suddenly and in fear for his safety. Many Black Men have been shot by the people in law enforcement that they needed to protect them. The background story to why I nearly had to call the police is that late one night/early morning I heard the distinct sound of two men coming over the stone wall in my backyard. I immediately grabbed my Mossberg 500 shotgun and clicked off the safety as I headed to my Safe Room. Note: I didn’t “pump” the shotgun to put a round in the chamber, because there was already a round in there. I keep my self-defense tools in Condition One: A round chambered, full magazine in place, hammer cocked, safety on. A friend asked why I use condition one, since “…it seems like it might just go off”. Unfortunately, he took most of his information on firearms from the news, television, and myth. After reading a few well-researched articles I sent him, he realized that the safety did exactly what is says on the tin. A safety stops the weapon from firing, and that I keep a round in the chamber because I may not have the precious seconds I need to get a round into the chamber if someone broke into my house. I also explained to him that he’d been mislead when he was told that “The sound of a 12-gauge shotgun being “pumped” would cause most attackers to fudge their underwear, and flee in terror.” Team, it just doesn’t work like that. I hope for the best, but Prepare for the worst because I’d be the guy just unlucky enough to get an attacker/intruder who was high on drugs or too stupid to realize I was able to defend myself.
I can’t ever forget that my experience has been that White America does not, and believes erroneously that it has no reason to, codify the experience of Black Americans.
To read more on America, click here.
Angela Grant, who runs FailureToListen.com, has just posted a well written piece called “CDS: Chronic Discrimination Syndrome” that I highly recommend. Take note of how she addresses Targeted Ethnic Groups.
Tim Wise explains and articulates things in a way that I have found a great many White Americans tell me they understand and relate to. Wise provides a non-confrontational explanation of white privilege and the damage it does not only to all, not just Black people of color but to White people as well. I specifically said “Black people of color” because we are not a monolithic block, there is a huge diaspora that the designation Black encompasses.
Timothy Jacob “Tim” Wise is an anti-racism activist and writer. Since 1995, he has given speeches at over 600 college campuses across the U.S. He has trained teachers, corporate employees, non-profit organizations, and law enforcement officers in methods for addressing and dismantling racism in their institutions.
Another relevant point of view “Touré: The internal response to racial slights”
Touré: The internal response to racial slights is an excellent five-minute TED Talk presented by Touré Neblett. He’s an American novelist, essayist, music journalist, cultural critic, and television personality based in New York City. He is the host of Fuse’s Hiphop Shop and On the Record and is now a co-host of The Cycle on MSNBC. It’s a five-minute video.
This is Tim talking to someone who specifically asks if they should feel guilt for the things past generations did. Its a three minute video.
Louis CK explains historical context to Jay Leno
Louis CK is an award winning comedian and television comic. It’s a five-minute video as well.