Posted by: minnow | September 24, 2017

Race and White Privilege

White America, it’s time we take a knee. Today, since it’s Sunday, we might want to make it two. We need to repent. For far too long we have tolerated racist behavior in the US. For far too long we have benefited from the color of our skin and ignored what happens to People of Color. And, for far too long, if we have noticed, we have remained silent. It is time we opened our eyes. It is time we understand our culpability. If Collin Kaepernick’s protest has shown us anything it has revealed the ugly truth that for Black America no type of protest is acceptable to White America.
If they riot we shift the conversation to their criminal behavior.  If they march and shout we accuse them of being unwilling to engage in rational conversation. And if they take a silent knee, we call them unpatriotic, or as the President recently demonstrated, worse. What we have failed to do is address the real problems–the reason for the violence, the hostility, or the frustration.
Let’s look at some statistics. According to data collected by The Guardian black men between the ages of 15 and 34 are nine times more likely to be killed by police than any other demographic. Even though White people make up more than 60 percent of the population they account for less than 49 percent of those killed by police. Blacks, however, make up only 13 percent of the population yet  over 21 percent of those killed by law enforcement. In the year since Collin Kaepernick first took a knee, 233 of the 963 people kill by law enforcement were Black, another 113 were other People of Color. That translates to 38.8 percent of the people killed by police officers being People of Color. Additionally, while only 18% of youth under the age of 18 are Black, 32 % of juvenile arrests are Black children.
Now before you start assuming these stats are because Blacks commit more crime take a look at some other statistics. Blacks are twice as likely to be arrested for drug crimes as Whites even though Whites use and sell drugs at a comparable or higher rate. Police are three times as likely to search the car of a Black person than a White person and Blacks are more likely to be pulled over even though they are not as likely to receive a citation–meaning they were stopped without cause. Additionally, they more often face jail sentences and less frequently get off with community service, a fine, or time served even though they spend more time in jail awaiting trial.
As heartbreaking as these statistics are, we are not simply facing a criminal justice problem. People of Color suffer a disproportionate rate of other injustices as well. 42 percent of Black children 38 percent of Latino children, and 31 percent of Native American children are educated in high poverty schools. Compare that to the 6 percent of white children in high poverty schools. Among students who drop out of school, 47 percent of Blacks face unemployment compared to 26 percent of Whites. The unemployment rate for Blacks with a 4 year degree is 8% while the rate for Whites with similar degrees is almost half that. Finally, America’s homeless population is over 40 percent Black despite being only 11 percent of the general population. Hispanics are 13 percent of the homeless although they are only 9 percent of the population and Native Americans constitute 4 percent of the homeless population while making up just 1 percent of the general population.
Sadly, I am no longer shocked by the vulgar commentary from our 45th president.  I am also not surprised by the behavior of the party who currently controls Congress.  But, despite these very disappointing truths, I am hopeful for my nation. My hope rests in the voices of a new generation of social justice activists, politicians like Joe Kennedy Jr. who as a white man reminded us after the tragedy in Charlottesville that, “We draw strength, not from those who chose silence, but from those who choose to refuse to be silenced.”  And who, just a couple weeks later, when the President slammed the door on DACA, reminded the Speaker and his colleagues in Congress that they have the power to intervene when injustice threatens. Speaking on the House floor Kennedy admonished, “We all suffer when this country breaks its promises, but for our children that cost compounds. They pay the interest on our inaction and our inadequacy. They pick up the piece of the precious things that we broke, the sacred resources we took for granted, and the battles that we were too afraid to fight.”
We cannot afford to be afraid of the battle which looms on the horizon because if we are, if we continue to turn our heads, to look the other way, and to ignore our responsibility then fear and anger and hate will wreck havoc on this nation. The issues that impact race relations in America may be complex but the conflicts which have manifest will never be resolved unless our part in creating them, as white people of privilege, is confronted. Personally, I much prefer the peaceful protest of a bended knee than the ugly confrontation of rioting and war.
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