Lincoln Anthony Blades explains that when an innocent and unarmed Black man is gunned down by a white man, African Americans aren’t even allowed to express anger at the senseless killing.
Last week, I was having an interesting conversation with one of my friends, in which she and I discussed a joke my favorite comedian, Bill Burr, said during one of his standup specials. He made a hilarious observation about how racism today is less about angry, over-the-top Klansmen yelling profanities at minorities, and more about quiet, seemingly-innocuous conversations with a vile twist.
When I learned about the verdict in the Jordan Davis murder trial, I was hell-bent on learning why the jury couldn’t convict Michael Dunn with either first-degree or second-degree murder or even manslaughter. Why couldn’t those men and women come to an agreement about what Dunn did before having to declare a mistrial on the murder charge? As I scrolled through various news stories, forums, and social media sites, I read the comments and I noticed a theme that would’ve made me laugh, if I wasn’t so sick with grief. Mostly white commenters were telling the angry, frustrated, and confused Black commenters that they need to “look beyond race” and stop making this a “big race issue,” That liberal racism strikes again.
When George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, Black folks were told “don’t play the race card” because the issue was about a young thug versus a neighborhood-watching civilian. TV analysts even stepped in front of the camera to blame the hoodie as the main culprit in Martin’s death.
When Jonathan Ferrell was gunned down by North Carolina police while seeking help after suffering through a horrific car crash, Black folks were told to “not jump to any conclusions about race being a factor,” because the officer would have reacted if any man Ferrell’s size had ran at him.
Whenever an innocent and unarmed Black man is gunned down by a white man, African Americans aren’t even allowed to express anger at the senseless killing, before we are instructed to “stop complaining about race,” and stop ignoring our own community’s issues with “Black-on-Black crime,” the biggest bullshit media-term ever created.
But how can the Black community view tragedies without the prevalent lens of race, when that is a very prominent part of our existence? Racism has never been defeated and white privilege hasn’t decreased. Black folks are still targeted and profiled by the police at a high rate which makes us the primary targets of the prison-industrial complex. Race affects us everyday, yet we are told not to “dwell” on it, as if we have the special ability to choose when we want to be oppressed or discriminated against.
And even with the best intentions, white peoples’ cries to “look beyond race” are aimed completely in the wrong direction. We understand whites may want to live in an equal, colorblind, and post-racial society, but telling us to ignore how systemic prejudice affects our everyday-life just so they can revel in the concept of a united world is wholly unfair. If they’ve never dealt with the issues that Black folks constantly face in our modern Western society, then it’s ignorant to instruct us on how to deal with it. Believe me, we’ve spent our lives trying to figure that out. And many great men and women before us lost their lives trying to fight for exactly that.
The truth is, it’s NOT Black people’s job to “look beyond race.” It’s the job of the society we live in to relinquish its inherent and systemic racism. Asking Black folks to treat everyone like equals is akin to asking rape victims to stop looking so tantalizing to rapists, without simply demanding that men stop raping. Black people have been ready and willing to see beyond color for decades, but racism and privilege can only be defeated by the people who wield the massive control of its existence — and it’s NOT us.
Lincoln Anthony Blades blogs daily on his site ThisIsYourConscience.com, he’s an author of the book “You’re Not A Victim, You’re A Volunteer” and a weekly contributor for UPTOWN Magazine. He can be reached via Twitter @lincolnablades and on Facebook at This Is Your Conscience.