August 6, 2016 by Chris Kite
Several friends of mine have recently posted statements calling Black Lives Matter a terrorist organization. I would like to think this was just an overly emotional reaction to the tragic and senseless murder of police officers. But I suspect that is being too generous.
I can’t pretend to know what it is like to be black in America. I can, however, share empathy and admit that I have seen many, many examples of racism rearing it’s ugly head. And I can say that I stand with Black Lives Matter. As a white male that has spent my life enjoying not only white privilege but also male privilege, I think this is a critical step.
Racism has many flavors.
Not all racism is of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi variety. In fact, I think that is the biggest problem. Generally speaking, Americans are horrified and don’t hesitate to call out the KKK and Nazi’s as being wrong, evil, and hate filled.
A good portion of Americans (not enough, unfortunately) also openly call out the Donald Trump, Steve King, Ted Cruz, Republican Party type racist. These are the folks that claim they have nothing against people of of color, but then go on to say horrible things. Such as “Mexicans are rapists,” “Blacks are inherently lazy,” or “Islam is a terrorist religion,” or “Tell me what contributions non-whites have made to civilization.” These people that say such things may not be quite as evil as the KKK and Nazis, but they are evil. And dead wrong. And we need to stand up to them and call them out.
Then there are the closet racists, where comments come out that make you shake your head and sometimes gasp. Those are the people that on the surface, profess to support equal opportunity and equal rights, but then will say something completely racist such as, “Yeah. He seems like an okay person, but sure seems like the stereotypical black person to me.” For the record, I actually heard a coworker say that about a person of color interviewing for a job. I’m pleased to say that I was able to convince this person that the guy we were interviewing met all qualifications and was a strong candidate for the job and therefore hiring him was the right thing to do. We did hire him, as you would expect from someone that was highly qualified, he was quite effective, and I’m somewhat hopeful that my coworker saw the error of their assumption and statement and won’t do it again.
But where things become less clear is in unintentional racism. Those are the people that President Obama referred to a while back that might be quick to make a judgement and do something like cross to the other side of the street when they see a young black man walking toward them. They recognize that racism exists, that people of color often don’t get a fair chance, and that even in our current society, whites often put people of color at a disadvantage. But at the same time, they have unrecognized bias that is almost an uncontrollable reaction.
This is very dangerous because most people go on living their lives thinking that racism is bad but they aren’t a racist, when in fact, they are. Think about this for a minute when it comes to law enforcement. If you are carrying deadly force (your service weapon) and are faced with a quick life or death decision, that inherent but unintentional racism can be incredibly tragic. I think there are ways to deal with this. Training is a good example. Teach people that they have these biases and teach them to overcome them. And even more importantly, teach children at an early age that people are people. Some are good, some are bad. You can’t know without getting to know someone. You certainly can’t tell from skin color, religious background, or social “class.”
When racism comes into play in police violence, call it out and hold people accountable. This isn’t unreasonable. But to say Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization is hateful, wrong, and inherently racist. The Black Lives Matter movement has never called for violence. They condemn it. They are not responsible for the actions of misguided, hateful, violence prone maniacs that think the best solution is to kill police officers. Just like all white males are not responsible for mass shootings. Which are almost always perpetrated by white males.
The simple fact is, racism is still very existent in the United States of America and it impacts people of color every single day. It comes into play in things as “unimportant” as customer service and the way people are spoken to. And it comes into play in terms of getting a fair opportunity for a job, or housing, or healthcare. And most importantly, it comes into play in the policing of the streets and in our justice system.
The following link provides some numbers about why Black Lives Matter is important and why we must improve. These aren’t mistaken calculations. They can’t be explained in any way other than a prevalent unfair racial bias in our country.
I am Black Lives Matter.