When the recent video of two Black men in Philadelphia being arrested at a Starbucks was exposed for the entire nation to witness, very few Black people were surprised. When another Black man and his friend were denied permission to use the LA Fitness gym that they both were paying members of, very few black people were surprised. When Michael Brown, a young teenage Black man with a very impressive academic record earned accepted to 20 schools (including four ivy league schools) and received a free ride to every one, and was criticized by some FOX news affiliate anchors, many Black people were annoyed but very few Black people were surprised.
When 14 year old Brendan Walker was accused by of being a criminal by a white woman and shot at by her unhinged husband, many Black people were undoubtedly outraged, but not all that surprised. When a drugged up, nude, deranged gunman Travis Reinking, opened fire at a Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee this past weekend and murdered four young people of color many Black people (like many others) were undoubtedly shocked, but not entirely surprised.
Driving while Black. Walking While Black. Running while Black,
Sitting in a public space while Black. Asking for help while Black. Eating While Black. Merely existing while Black. The cold hard truth is that to be Black in America is to frequently endure an ongoing state of assaults and insults. Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed very public examples of Black people being arrested for nothing. Denied access to a health club were they were paying members. Being attacked and ridiculed for achieving academic excellence. Almost being killed simply for getting lost and asking directions. Indeed, it seems being Black is synonymous with being under unrelenting emotional and psychological siege.
It is doubtful (in fact, highly unlikely ) that any White man or any other non-White man would have been arrested for sitting in a Starbucks without ordering any food or drinks. The fact they were arrested for “defiant trespassing” (yes, that was the charge) was even more outrageous. It is immensely improbable that very few, if any White men or women who were regular (or even sporadic) paying attendees of a health club would be denied, dismissed and disrespected by management. With the possibility of Laura Ingraham and some mentally wayward anchors at FOX news, it is highly improbable that a young White student would be referred to as “ridiculous,” “obnoxious” and “showing off.” Moreover, we can almost certainly state with near universal certainly, that a young White teenager would not almost lose their life simply for knocking on a door and asking for directions.
While this is hardly news for those of us who are of African descent, the fact is that such a reality does not resonate for others who are not Black, in particular, White Americans. Consequently, many White people tend to resort to a position of denial. To these Whites, it is not other people, but rather, it is Black people themselves who are the culprits. The usual narratives “there must be more to the story,” “they must have been guilty,” “what were they doing in the neighborhood?” “if they just cooperated with the police,” and so on. Well, the fact is more often than not, there is nothing more to the story except another insult or injustice has been perpetrated on the person in question.
In her wonderful and deftly precise op-ed “Why I Tweeted The Video” for CNN, Philadelphia resident, Melissa DePino, the woman who recorded the Starbucks incident on her cell phone, made it clear in no ambiguous language that something this extreme would have never had happened to her. Similarly, Michael Cohen, a columnist for the Boston Globe, wrote a similarly fantastic article entitled “Racism and White Privilege in America” about the incident making it clear that as a White ethnic man who has sat in more than a few coffee houses, including Starbucks, utilizing free WI-fi, relaxing in comfortable chairs, enjoying the music, sometimes foregoing the option to purchase anything to eat or drink etc… without ever being scrutinized about whether he has purchased anything. Cohen referred to this is a prime example of White privilege. He is correct.
The fact is White denial has long historical roots. There is an inability of White people to hear Black reality. In some cases, it is the outright refusal to acknowledge such racial, economic and other related disparities. We have seen such denial manifest itself in the often hostile commentary that graces the comment sections, twitter feeds, and Facebook pages of many Whites (not all) who refuse to accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, they are in the dark about the many stark realities that face a disproportionate segment of the Black populace in our nation.
Imagine the potential progress for us as a nation if a segment of Whites were able to move away from an unyielding, defensive posture and began to come to realization that many Black people are not “crying foul” simply for the sake of doing so. These situations and incidents are far too routine. The law has routinely been used as a weapon against Black bodies; and the pain, anger and despair of Black life is often far too real. This is a message that needs to be heard and listened to with a degree of sincerity and respect that includes not dismissing these individuals as people who are wantonly problematic, mentally disturbed, or irrelevant.
Join The Good Men Project Community.
“Here’s the thing about The Good Men Project. We are trying to create big, sweeping, societal changes—–overturn stereotypes, eliminate racism, sexism, homophobia, be a positive force for good for things like education reform and the environment. And we’re also giving individuals the tools they need to make individual change—-with their own relationships, with the way they parent, with their ability to be more conscious, more mindful, and more insightful. For some people, that could get overwhelming. But for those of us here at The Good Men Project, it is not overwhelming. It is simply something we do—–every day. We do it with teamwork, with compassion, with an understanding of systems and how they work, and with shared insights from a diversity of viewpoints.” —– Lisa Hickey, Publisher of The Good Men Project and CEO of Good Men Media Inc.
The $50 Platinum Level is an ALL-ACCESS PASS—join as many of our new Social Interest Groups, calls about life in the 21st century, and classes (writing, platform building, leadership, social change) as you want for the entire year. The $25 Gold Level gives you access to any ONE Social Interest Group and ONE Class–and other benefits listed below the form. Or…for $12, join as a Bronze Member and support our mission.
Register New Account
*Payment is by PayPal.
Please note: If you are already a writer/contributor at The Good Men Project, log in here before registering. (Request new password if needed).
ANNUAL PLATINUM membership ($50 per year) includes:
1. AN ALL ACCESS PASS — Join ANY and ALL of our weekly calls, Social Interest Groups, classes, workshops and private Facebook groups. We have at least one group phone call or online class every day of the week.
2. See the website with no ads when logged in!
3. PLATINUM MEMBER commenting badge and listing on our “Friends of The Good Men Project” page.
ANNUAL GOLD membership ($25 per year) includes all the benefits above — but only ONE Weekly Social Interest Group and ONE class.
ANNUAL BRONZE membership ($12 per year) is great if you are not ready to join the full conversation but want to support our mission anyway. You’ll still get a BRONZE commenting badge, a listing on our Friends page, and you can pop into any of our weekly Friday Calls with the Publisher when you have time. This is for people who believe—like we do—that this conversation about men and changing roles and goodness in the 21st century is one of the most important conversations you can have today.
We have pioneered the largest worldwide conversation about what it means to be a good man in the 21st century. Your support of our work is inspiring and invaluable.
Photo Credit: Getty Images