A small but vocal segment of my social media circle has been spam-sharing memes that, whatever the intention, give the message “Racism isn’t a real thing, and blacks need to get over it.”
I’ve seen people do character assassination on George Floyd. Quotes from MLK urging nonviolence that are accurate, but ignore the fact that he also acknowledged “Riots are the language of the unheard.” Posts about how one of the first slaveowners was black, so clearly nothing going on now has anything to do with whites or institutional racism. How we don’t have to listen to any of the current outrage, because violence negates their moral authority. Etc., etc.
Well, yes, obviously violence is bad. But think of your kid saying, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”
And you keep saying, “Hang on, wait a minute,” because you have Important Things to do.
So then they say again, “Mom!”
And you say: “I said hang on!” Even though you’re getting sidetracked by the next thing, and the next thing.
“Did I say wait? Wait!”
Eventually they’ve had enough and they throw something and break it. And now they finally have your attention. Boy, do they ever.
Were they wrong to resort to breaking things? Yup.
But you were wrong first, for ignoring them when they were asking for your attention in an appropriate way.
This is not a perfect analogy by any means. Most especially because whites are not blacks’ parents, and blacks shouldn’t ever be under the authority of whites. It drives me crazy that this is the analogy I think of, because it smacks of paternalism.
But on the other hand, I am a parent, and parenthood is the lens through which I see most of life.
I have more thoughts about what justice is–I barely even touched the quote I shared above. But I’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, here’s the speech with the MLK quote.