No this isn’t about education. Bear with me.
I went to a protest this weekend here in Baton Rouge in response to the Eric Garner decision and other instances of police brutality. A couple of hundred people were there: students, ministers, various other members of the community, of all races. We heard the account (from his father) of Victor White III, who supposedly shot himself in the chest, while in police custody, with his hands cuffed behind his back. We heard the account of another unnamed man who, after being sent to prison in Angola, was killed 4 days later in an altercation with prison guards. His family doubted the story they were told of the altercation, and his body was not allowed to be released to the family; he was buried in Angola. We heard a mother talking about how she returned to her car from a convenience store, to find a cop physically roughing up her children in the back seat, because one of them was playing with a laser pointer. We heard from a 12 year old black girl who was terrified that her 10 year old brother would be killed by police. We heard from a man who was beaten by police because he said to the officer “Why did you stop me?” These stories are, sadly, not unique.
There are tons of great cops out there – no one is denying that. However, police brutality does happen, and it happens disproportionately to black people, regardless of why they’re interacting with police in the first place. The data shows this clearly.
And still, when a story is posted here in our local paper about the protest (a completely peaceful event), comments like those pictured above absolutely dominate the discussion. These are not the exception; they are the rule. Again and again, ignorant white people talk about “ghetto rats” and “black on black crime.” (As an aside, black people do kill black people. You know what happens more often than that? White people killing white people.). They talk about how those at the protest must be lazy, have nothing better to do with their time, or need to get a job (How many jobs do they want me to have?).
I wish these voices were the minority here. They are not. Baton Rouge is a racist city. Louisiana is a racist state. The South is a racist region. There are a few shining examples of progress, and there are pockets of people trying to make a difference. And yet, if you ask most of these people who make these ignorant comments, they will tell you they’re not racist. That’s perhaps the scariest part of this; millions of racists, walking around feeling justified in their ignorant beliefs, believing they’re not racist and denying racism exists. So then when yet another black life is taken, they feel comfortable dismissing the cries for justice. They’re not racist, no, of course not. They just see black people as uncivilized, subhuman thugs who need to get jobs.