Ferguson: If Whites Became Black
A lot of whites “don’t get” the uproar in Ferguson.
Why would anyone get upset over killing a thug who robbed and assaulted a convenience store clerk? A guy who struggled to get a cop’s gun? And who later charged at the officer?
Michael Brown is not an ideal martyr.
But the upset isn’t about Michael Brown so much as it’s about a world that says:
Black lives don’t matter!
Plenty of whites think we have overcome racism. They think blacks have the same experience with the police — and the world — as whites do.
Try putting yourself in their shoes.
What if whites suddenly found themselves living in a world where:
- Whites had once been enslaved by blacks
- After slavery ended, whites had to sit at the back of the bus and enter a restaurant from the rear door — if at all
- Swimming pools were drained if a white guy jumped in — because he had just polluted the water
- Black scientists infected white men with syphilis, and didn’t treat them because they wanted to see how the disease progressed
But things have changed, right? Still, that’s all part of the collective memory.
And nowadays whites experience this sort of thing:
- Across the US white men are routinely pulled over by black cops for DWW: driving while white
- Black Ferguson police officers frequently stop poor white drivers and fine them as a way to finance the county government
- Unarmed white men and boys are shot by black police officers — with no official sanction. Videos sometimes show that the white victims had been cooperating with the black police. Or they were playing in the snow, just before being shot. They have names like John Ford, Oscar Grant, Levar Jones, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.
- A white man named Rodney King was nearly beaten to death by black cops. And a black jury said “That’s okay.”
- Or a white kid named Trayvon sat in his car, sipping a Slurpie, when a man of color came over, argued with him, and killed him. A nearly all-black jury said that’s okay, too.
- Meanwhile, studies show that when men appear in video games holding either a gun or a tool, people are much more likely to shoot a white guy than a black guy who is holding a tool
- White mothers and fathers fear for their sons when they leave home to drive on city roads or walk down city streets
And when a white Michael Brown is shot by a black police officer:
- His body is left on the ground for four hours
- The black prosecutor acts like a defending attorney before a grand jury, as if he were trying to keep the black cop from facing charges for killing a white guy
- A mostly black jury determines that the killing of this white man by a black officer warrants no charges
Our white Mr. Brown is not an ideal martyr. But the outrage is not about him so much as a world that says,
White lives don’t matter!
For more on this, New York Times’ Nick Kristof has a series called, When Whites Just Don’t Get It.
Sociological Images has also posted a series of articles on the police and black Americans.
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