Happy February! Also, happy Black History Month!
Alert! This post may contain unpopular opinions. However, even though it may have taken me almost 24 years to learn, we all have a right to our opinions, we have a right to have opinions as much as any other human, and the way that I’ve been taught to love proves that you can voice any opinion and still be respectful and kind. Nevertheless, this post isn’t just to talk about my opinions but it’s also to bring up some facts. Hopefully they’ll educate readers and bring improvement and unity to the society we live in. Maybe they won’t. Regardless, in honor of the celebration that is Black History Month, I decided to speak on a few ideas that I’ve always kept quiet about.
More often than not, the media portrays African-Americans poorly
I’m actually going to start off with giving the benefit of the doubt. I do not believe that the majority of racists mean to intentionally discriminate. It’s easier than one would think to treat a certain race as lesser without even realizing. I do believe that this is something that is often subconsciously taught. Some of the only interaction that others have with African Americans is what they’re being shown on TV, in movies, the news, and hearing on the radio. While not realizing that this is happening, people are being conditioned by what they’re seeing electronically to believe that the majority of black people are obnoxious, thieves, arrogant, poor, trashy, drug addicts, and moochers of our tax dollars. If all that people see about black culture are raunchy rap videos, homicide after homicide on the news, and the constant casting of black actors being portrayed as ghetto, do you blame those that don’t know any better or do you blame the ones spewing false information and the idea that black people amount to little else? Reference.com stated that back in 2012, “whites and Hispanics had the highest crime rate at 69.3%…[while] blacks make up only 28.1%. If the news depicted that statistic, people wouldn’t only clutch their wallet or purse a little tighter when passing a minority on the street, they’d probably also do it when passing a white person. It’s a lack of knowledge. If it was well-known that “40.2% of [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] recipients are white [while only] 25.7% are black” according to data that the U.S. Department of Agriculture collected, would people be more compassionate towards those using government assistance to feed their children? Lastly, would you finally admit that police and government reform is necessary if you knew that according to the criminal justice fact sheet gathered by the NAACP, even though “about 14 million whites and 2.6 million African Americans report using an illicit drug”, “African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at ten times the rate of whites”? Would you possibly consider that maybe there actually is racial profiling and harassing going on and that it’s not just disrespectful menaces to society getting what they deserve? If you are white and reading this, ask yourself if the assumptions you make about minorities are fair and based on facts. If you’re black and angered by these discrepancies, do not give yourself to hate. Educate your friends of other races. Lead by example. Oh, and also, disregard the small-minded people that think because they live in a place where the nasty stereotypes are often true that they have a strong knowledge about the majority of the world. Someday, this country could be a place where all people are treated equally. Even today, there are still people fighting for this. Many are protesting the wrongs to help this cause. Which brings me to my next point:
Protesting: Let people do it in peace
It’s probably safe to say that almost everyone has read about protesting in their school textbooks. Especially the protests during the Civil Rights Movement. The Women’s March that took place last year after Donald Trump’s inauguration also made history. There were several protests that went on for Black Lives Matter. There are protests almost daily outside abortion clinics. There are protests daily for all kinds of things that matter to maybe not you but to other people. Friendly reminder: not everything is about you. People will not go through life quietly internalizing the changes they want to see just because those changes are not important to you. Another friendly reminder: they shouldn’t have to. Let people protest. Quit giving them grief. You do not have to agree with anybody and you also don’t have to join anybody. Keep exercising your free will. However, before you criticize anybody who is exercising their right to protest with confidence and bravery, get reacquainted with history. Do your research before you claim any of the following: 1. Protesting gets no one anywhere. 2. Rioting gets no one anywhere and 3. Protesters try to force their opinions on everybody else. Quick recap: there wouldn’t be the America we have today if the well-respected men in our textbooks hadn’t protested (do your research, they were not peaceful). Secondly even if they were peaceful, Martin Luther King Jr. is a prime example that a lot of times, peace is still met with violence, hate, and cruelty. Hopefully you can now at least kinda see where the rioters are coming from. Maybe destroying property isn’t your style but do you have a plan of action for what you’ll do when you feel your rights are violated? When you feel as though you’re not being treated fairly and equally by the government? What lengths will you go to in order to get the fair treatment that everyone else has? Ask yourself if by telling people to be quiet and be polite you’re actually meaning, “shut up and get over it”. If you’re honest with yourself, you may even admit that in the face of adversity, you might just cower stay quiet. Exercise that right if you wish, but the respect for those trying to make a difference should still be there. Ask yourself if it’s something you would get over if it was happening to you and your loved ones. If you consider yourself a good, caring person, you can’t also believe that just because something does not affect you that it’s not important. It’s called privilege.
Privilege: Use it for good
Even being a black female, I at times feel privileged. I don’t live with the fear of being kicked out of my home or assaulted if I announce my sexuality because I am straight. Being 5’3 and 92 pounds soaking wet, I’m not a large black man like my father so I am less likely to be accused of being a hoodlum. I’ve never had to feel the embarrassment of going through extra security at the airport simply because of the way I look. Sure, I could keep my mouth shut about gay rights, immigration, mental illnesses, and anything else that doesn’t directly affect me. Or, even though I’m not affected, I could acknowledge those that are and take a stand. Especially because those being bothered by it could be…I don’t know, family members or loved ones? Anyway, just because these are issues I don’t have to face, does not mean that they are not issues that are a daily reality for many others. The way I see it, you can either choose to ignore everything that doesn’t apply to you or you can keep an open mind and notice what goes on in the world around you and maybe even start to make changes. This post isn’t to persuade you to organize a march to the White House. This is a to call everyone to put themselves in the shoes of others. Oh, the ripple effect that could occur if there was no divide against blacks and whites. Oh, the peace that this country could have if I made the effort to protect my LGBTQ friends from being bullied. If millions of Americans decided to stand up to those that are blaming terrorism on our immigrant co-workers or neighbors. If men decided to agree that women and men should be treated equally in the workplace. If Americans commended Hispanics for the hard labor that they complete instead of assuming that they are all illegally crossing the border and draining our resources. If everyone forced officers to take responsibility for the black people and for all the people they murdered without cause instead of assuming their lives were not valuable because of their skin color and social status.
Admittedly, I have some strides I need to take myself to do my part in making a change. My hope is that I’ve educated some in racial misconceptions. My hope is that I’ve caused people to change the way that they think about others that they share a planet with. My hope is that I’ve helped even one person to quit with the racial jokes and slurs. Maybe someone in a small town will see that it’s a vast world they live in and that it’s not all what their mind or the TV has painted it to be. My hope is that I’ve brought people together with similarities instead of creating a further gap filled with fear of those that are different from us. Make empathy great again.