You've probably seen the Martin Luther King quote going around that about sums up how I feel right now: "But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity."
He was not, obviously, speaking in favor of violent rebellions. He was just saying that they're basically inevitable when a group of people is screwed over and ignored for too long. And that's why, though I don't support violence or destruction of property either, I believe this nation thoroughly deserves it. Not that most affected individuals deserve it by any means, but the country as an institution does a hundred percent. I only woke up to these problems in the last few years, but I'm in my twenties and not in any decision-making capacity on any scale whatsoever. Millions of older, wiser and more authoritative people have had ample opportunity to listen and change things but they haven't. Of course black people and their allies are incandescent with rage. Of course they're going to start breaking things when their peaceful protests and pleas have consistently been mocked by white conservatives and accomplished nothing. If this nation had at some point made the radical decision to hold police officers accountable for their actions, and maybe even screen out testosterone-fueled fascists from being hired in the first place, riots wouldn't be happening right now. But it didn't and they are and it deserves it.
I apologize to the world, better late than never, for my past ignorance about race relations in the United States. I drastically underestimated the problem, miscalculated the necessary measures to correct it, and failed to adequately listen to people with different skin colors about their experiences that have differed from mine. My heart has always been in the right place and I've never deliberately said or done anything racially insensitive, but like everyone I've grown up with certain cultural and political blinders that I've had to learn to shake off over the years. Like in school, I was never explicitly taught "Racism is over", but from my early years onward I was taught about slavery and the civil rights movement and the narrative seemed to be, "White people used to mistreat black people but now things have changed and we know better", and there was no discussion of the lingering effects of those things and since the equality of white and black people was a no-brainer to me, I never guessed that there were any. And when I did start hearing about them, it all seemed like a political ploy to harass and delegitimize everyone who didn't support Obama, which I didn't, so of course I would resist.
I'm grateful to my handful of black friends for being patient with me as I've evolved into less of an idiot, which really was just a process of time, growth and having things adequately explained to me. For example, I didn't used to believe in white privilege. I felt personally attacked when people told me I'm "privileged" even though I've been marginalized in ways large and small my entire life because of my autism. But I accepted the reality of white privilege as soon as I had a college professor who explained what it actually is and what it isn't. Right now, despite posting about this on Facebook multiple times a day, I'm actually really sick of hearing about it. My life would be a little more pleasant if I could go back to not constantly hearing about racism and police brutality. Because it doesn't affect me virtually at all. That's white privilege. The privilege of being annoyed by someone else's oppression. I think it's actually the most stark and succinct evidence of white privilege I could give right now.
Most white people are in the same situation, so each of us has a choice between trying to ignore what's going on or wading right into it and speaking up for what's right. Anecdotally, it appears to me that for the first time most of us are making the right choice. Of course I've still seen some idiots. I unfriended my own cousin on Facebook for sharing a meme of a Jeep plowing into stick figures, with the words "All Live Splatter: Nobody Cares About Your Protests". Okay, first of all, claiming that "nobody cares" about something that millions of people demonstrably care about very much just makes you look pathetic, and second, what the crap? She's always been a few fries short of a Happy Meal and I was mostly ignoring her coronavirus conspiracy theory posts, but this was too much. I was also dumbstruck by this gem I saw by chance on a Deseret News article the other day.
I just have a few things to say to that.
1. Whether George Floyd was a "saint" or not is entirely irrelevant to whether the police had any right to murder him while he was safely in custody. Also, a recent study found evidence that drug addicts are still people.
2. Derek Chauvin already had eighteen complaints against him, which is almost one for every year he's been a cop. And for reasons known only to God, he was still a cop. Why exactly would he be concerned about compromising it now?
3. George Floyd was unarmed, in handcuffs, on his stomach. Derek Chauvin had three other cops with him. By no possible stretch of the imagination did he need to "protect himself" or anyone else from anything, you illiterate cretin.
4. It's sad his wife left him? Wrong. It's sad his wife just realized she was married to a murderer. You're praying for the wrong person and it says a lot about you.
5. "I also know Blacks are causing more and more problems in this country. If we have a civil war we're locked and loaded at home." I can't - I don't - I just - what? Did you fall into a coma in 1963 and just wake up without realizing it?
But like I said, most people are in clear agreement that Derek Chauvin is scum and what he did was unequivocally wrong. I really believe and hope that George Floyd's death is the tipping point that will bring about difficult, painful but oh so necessary and long overdue change. Today I participated in only my second protest ever (I wore a mask and was pleased that everyone else except a few conservatives who showed up to argue did too), and the atmosphere and the honks and waves and raised fists from hundreds of cars driving past just reinforced that feeling. Very, very few people flipped us off or yelled at us and only one middle-aged white guy showed up to let us know that he isn't racist but he doesn't support Black Lives Matter because it's violent. I don't feel up to going into a ton of detail like I did last time, but maybe I will next week or whenever. If I happen to see any pictures of myself I'll pass them along even though I hate pictures of myself.
No American deserves the luxury of ignoring what's going on right now. The rest of the world isn't ignoring it. They've seen the George Floyd video too. When my friend in Kenya mentioned it, I felt profoundly embarrassed for my country. I wished I could distance myself from it. But as long as I'm here I have a responsibility to change it from the inside. I'm not promising anything great or earth-shaking but I'll try to be a useful contributor to this movement and not let the few people within my sphere of influence pretend it isn't a thing. Undoubtedly I still have a ways to go and will say more ignorant things in the future despite my best intentions, so I'm sorry in advance for that too. Please be patient with me.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.