My dear white friends, I’m about to lay some hardcore truth on you right now. Many of you are the problem. Yes, you read that right. Many of you are the reason why these riots are happening. Many of you are the reason why it has come to this. This is especially true if you’ve ever, and especially in the last weeks, said any of the following:
1. “It’s awful but…”
No. No buts. In the English language, the word “but” is often used to deflect or to justify behavior. Police murdering black people in the street is awful. Period. End. of. discussion.
2. “I support the movement but not these disruptive protests…”
No, you don’t. Right now the movement is taking the form of disruptive protests. They’re the same thing. You either want police to stop murdering black people in the street, or you don’t. If you do, then support the protests – even if you find them disruptive and frustrating – because that’s black people fighting for their lives.
3. “All lives / White lives matter too…”
No one said they didn’t. The conversation is specifically about black lives right now because police are murdering them in the street. Until police stop doing that, and White people stop dismissing it, it’s not “All lives Matter”, it’s “MOST lives matter.” It’s not “ALL Lives” until Black Lives Matter too. Stay focused.
4. “There are good cops…”
This isn’t about the actions of individuals. It’s about systemic, state-sanctioned violence against black people and other people of color. In fact, racism – historically and currently – is so embedded in policing that even if there weren’t any bad cops, racism and racist police practices would still exist. Police forces are there to protect and advance the status quo. Period. The same so-called “good cops” who are sharing BLM hashtags and are kneeling with you now, won’t think twice about kneeling on your neck at a later time. And if you think you’re a good cop, but are silent when confronted with human rights abuses, then how good are you?
5. “I don’t support the looting and destruction…”
No one says you have to, but please stop acting like looting nullifies the entire protest. And definitely stop acting like looting is “just as bad.” That’s like comparing someone stealing your car to someone murdering your child. They’re not equally bad. Stop pretending they are. Police murdering black people in the street is definitely worse than robbing a Target.
6. “Just because I’m white doesn’t mean my life has been easy…”
Of course not. Everyone struggles. But being white has never been one of those struggles. Being poor is a struggle. Being handicapped is a struggle. Being a woman is a struggle. Being gay is a struggle. Being an immigrant is a struggle. But being white has never been a struggle. The same can’t be said for people of color. I could go on and on about white privilege but it would be so much easier if you educated yourself instead. This isn’t about how you, a white, cisgender, straight man or woman has suffered in your life. This is about police murdering black people in the street. Stop trying to make it about you.
7. “I really wish they would protest peacefully…”
Of course you do. They’re easier to ignore that way. And what you really want is for them to die more quietly. People of color have been peacefully protesting for hundreds of years. It hasn’t been all that successful. The reason riots and violent demonstrations work is because it makes people – especially white people – uncomfortable. You can’t ignore them when they’re waving torches in your faces. It scares you. It puts you on edge. Which is exactly where you need to be. People only pay attention to the extreme. If you have trouble recalling a single one of the hundreds of peaceful protests that BLM held across North America last year, but you can still recall, with crystal clarity, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, then you’ve just proven my point.
8. “I don’t see color…”
Congratulations! You’re lying to yourself. Of course you see color. And that’s good! Black people want you to see their color. Their colors are beautiful and the very foundation of who they are. If you don’t see their color, then you also don’t see their culture. If you don’t see color then you erase their very identity. If you don’t see their color, then you also can’t see the pattern of violence they’re confronted with every day. If you don’t see color, then you’re blind to more than just racial injustice. You’re blind to the world.
9. “They shouldn’t have committed a crime…”
This one is a big one for me. Consider me triggered. A boy who steals a can of pop from a 7-11 does not deserve to be shot in the back – three times. A man illegally selling CD’s on a street corner doesn’t deserve to be shot to death in front of a record store. A man selling cigarettes on the street does not deserve to be strangled on the streets of Staten Island. A man who runs a red light does not deserve to be shot while reaching for his registration. This isn’t about their crimes, this is about racialized policing. Stay on topic.
10. “Black people kill white people too…”
Yes, murderers exist in every race and walk of life. But, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking police brutality, and the reality is, black officers are not murdering unarmed white men in the street. That seems to be almost exclusively white officer behavior. Stop gaslighting.
If any of you are guilty of saying any of the above, then I have unsettling news for you. You are the reason it has come to this. You are the reason peaceful protests haven’t worked. They haven’t worked because you haven’t been listening. You haven’t been learning. These riots are happening because you have left black people no other choice.
These riots are happening because no matter how black people have said it: taking a knee, marching the streets, bumper stickers, banners, signs, or chants, you still don’t get it. That doesn’t mean you’re bad people. That doesn’t mean you’re racist. It only means you’re white. And that’s not a crime, any more than being black is. The difference is, police aren’t going to shoot you in the street for it.
Editor’s Note: When this essay was first published it was mistakenly attributed to the wrong author, who actually plagiarized the original work. The actual writer, Patrick Benjamin, granted us permission to allow the work to remain in place with corrected credit. It is with our apologies and thanks that we continue to share his voice on this important subject.