Someone tagged me in a rather violent video on Facebook this morning. I didn’t watch the video (I can’t watch violence like that), but from the description it was a group of black kids beating up a white woman and white kid. It then listed all of the contact info for the girl/group who had done the beating.
This is another one of those things that I deal with by writing and posting about anti-racism. Someone is bound to try to “prove you wrong.” Because he never used his big boy words to state what the point of his posting said video to my wall was, I can only infer the point he was getting at. I guess the video was supposed to speak for itself. But what exactly was it supposed to be telling me?
Because I literally have this conversation all the time, I would imagine his thought process went something like this:
Look! black people are attacking white people for being white. This is racism! Black people are racist too. See, racism goes both ways.
No, it doesn’t.
Individual acts of aggression or violence don’t change the systemic nature of structural oppression faced by black people today. Remember: racism is prejudice + power (don’t even start with your Webster’s dictionary definition). A black man killing two cops does not invalidate or nullify the judical, housing, economic, wage, and job inequalities and discrimination faced by people of color. Black kids beating up white kids doesn’t result in an alternate universe where white people are now victims of structural racism. Your personal anecdote or post or video is just that – a personal anecdote. It says nothing about the larger issue of systematic racism.
Here’s an example of an anecdote that doesn’t point to some larger story. In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband’s penis. Since then, countless women have murdered their husbands, boyfriends, and lovers. Does any of that individual violence lessen the impact of sexism? Is there no such thing as gender discrimination because individual women can be violent against men? Does Lorena Bobbit’s life story in some way prove that gender bias doesn’t exist? No, of course not! And you would sound like an idiot if you used this argument. Which is why I am always annoyed when it pops up on my FB wall.
In fact, what you are attempting to do by making this type of flawed argument is detract from the topic that I am discussing which is normally systemic racism. Me posting #blacklivesmatter makes you rush to declare #alllivesmatter. Here’s the thing: at no point have I ever said that all lives don’t matter. I’ve simply asserted that black lives matter just as much. And that has to be said because of the disparate impact of the unfair judicial system on black lives.
The underlying tone in these type of “look at what these animals/thugs/black people do” posts is that “you people” do bad things too– so stop complaining. It’s the “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” argument. In order for black people to protest for their very lives or demand justice of a bitterly unequal system they must be perfect. Not some black people mind you, but all of you as a group must be perfect. No selfies with middle fingers, no loud rap music, no fighting, belts through pants loops at all time. Definitely no “black on black crime” and God forbid you should ever make a bad decision in your youth. And if you are not perfect, if even one of you does something awful, then we will use it as an excuse to deny the systematic oppression that you face day in and day out.
This argument makes no sense. Perfection is not a requirement for justice. Justice is the birthright of every American citizen including black people. Black people aren’t animals or people with a pathological disposition toward crime. No more so than any other race. We are beautifully human and flawed and have the same rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–just like everyone else.
So the next time you want to prove to me that black people are in some way responsible for racism towards them or present me with a “but, racism goes both ways” argument. Don’t.