#Ferguson: Mike brown and the “It is not a race thing” Apologists.


I have been unable to bring myself to write a blogpost on ‪#‎Ferguson for weeks now. Reading the updates is overwhelmingly heart wrenching. However, my sadness and pain won’t shield me from the myriad of stupid, wilfully ignorant and racist comments and memes that pops up on my newsfeed. If anything, those comments, status updates and memes contribute to my pain and anger. Michael Brown, 19, was unarmed when he was shot eight times in the middle of a street in Ferguson. And now, there is the case of Eric Garner, an African American choked to death by a white police officer.

It is disheartening when in an attempt to deny the racial aspect involved in Mike Brown’s murder, people who should know better post things like:

“This is not a race thing”

“I married a white person, my in-laws are white and they are not racists “

“All black people are not criminals; All white people are not racists”

“What if Mike brown was white?”

“Can’t we just move on?”

“But all lives matter!”

Those comments expose the comfortable ignorance people maintain on race related issues. Many white people are quick to deny white privilege. Some black people are quick to exclaim in unison with their white in-laws, “Not all white people are racists, can’t we just move on?”

An atheist black friend who should know better posted a video purportedly showing Mike Brown shoplifting, without any clarification and the first commenter, another black person, immediately wrote, “He shoplifted, he should be shot.”

Really, I mean, really?

It is tiresome explaining to people why even if Mike Brown shoplifted, he did not deserve to be shot dead by a police officer, especially when he was unarmed. That was10629642_1500839566828578_601239324720944857_n not just police brutality; it was murder.

It is wearisome explaining to people who claim to be racially colour-blind that just like Trayvon Martin, the skin colour of Mike brown has everything to do with the reason why he was shot dead.

It is tiring explaining that even though you are white and your best friend is black, it does not mean you do not have white privilege.

The fact that the president of America is a black man does not mean racism is a thing of the past

The fact that you are married to a white person does not mean the social institution that perpetrates racism has been totally dismantled.

The fact that you do not see colour does not mean societal structures and rankings are not colour-coordinated

It is a society where young black men are shot dead by white police officers and white vigilantes because they are perceived as violent and dangerous for nothing but the colour of their skin. If you are a black man, the default setting is “guilty until proven innocent”. If you are alive to prove yourself innocent, be thankful. Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown did not have the luxury of proving themselves innocent before they were gunned down.

White people are socialised to see black men as dangerous by centuries of systematic social portrayal of blacks as violent, barbaric, dangerous, and aggressive beings. It is not by chance that in his statement,  the police officer, Darren Wilson, who murdered Mike Brown, said “The only way I can describe it, it looks like a demon.” Yes, the only way this white police officer could describe his black victim was to call him “it” and reiterate that “it looks like a demon”. Yes, a black man to this police man with a gun is a demon bearing down on him, therefore he had no choice but to shoot “it”.  Talk about the effects and impact of social conditioning.

Social conditioning made Darren Wilson pull the trigger of his gun against Mike Brown. Yes, social conditioning kills.

The same social conditioning makes for this Duelling Photo Captions:

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 “A young [black] man walks through chest deep floodwater after looting a grocery store in New Orleans…”

“Two [white] residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans…”

The same social conditioning caused two almost identical breastfeeding photos to be accompanied by two vastly different headlines.

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This social conditioning portrays black women as aggressive, loud-mouthed bitches and hyper-sexualised beings. The same social conditioning makes the picture of a young white woman breastfeeding her baby “adorable” when just a few months earlier, a similar picture of a young black women breastfeeding her baby during graduation was demeaned to the extent she had to delete the picture!  Same action, different reaction, the key is in the skin colour.

I am truly saddened that we keep having to go over this, probably soon enough there will be another Trayvon Martin and another Mike brown because there are so many George Zimmermanns and Darren Wilsons out there.

This protester’s placard sums it up so well. It makes me tear up and so damn angry at the same time.

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My heart is with the people of Ferguson. The fight is not just a Ferguson affair; it is every human affair. It is a human right issue. Every decent human being should be angered by what is going on in Ferguson. This is not a time to post ‘cute memes’ like “Not all white people are Racists”. You are not addressing the matter, what you are doing is perpetrating the myth that racism is an individual thing.

Racism is not an individual thing; racism is institutionalised. To dismantle an institutionalised thing, we must first acknowledge that the institution exists.

Pointing out the racism inherent in the brutal murder of Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown is not an attack on you as a white person, it is not an attack on your white in-laws, it is not an attack on white people, it is simply an attack on institutionalised racism. It is not all about you, your royal whiteness!

For my fellow black people who keep saying we should move on because we are now all equal, please understand this. YOU ARE WRONG. And you don’t have to live in America or Europe to understand just how wrong you are.

You don’t have to live in Europe or America to know that according to a recent poll, Young black males are at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater or that blacks experience a higher number of stop and search more than their white counterparts, simply because- Skin colour.  You do not have to live in western countries before you understand just how revered the white skin is.

The white skin has been placed on such a high pedestal that even in black African countries; white persons enjoy privileges by virtue of their skin colour.

White persons are often warmly welcomed in Black African countries.

White tourists in Black countries do not face the same suspicious looks black tourists in white countries are subjected to.

Fellow blacks would treat a white person, especially when they are tourists, with more courtesy than they would treat a black person who is also a tourist.

In a black African country, employing a white person in your company/organisation whether or not they are qualified for the position, immediately boosts the reputation of your company/organisation.

In a black African country, if a white woman and a black woman with the same qualifications applied for a job as a receptionist in a company, the white woman is much more likely to get the job even if she has the lesser experience and qualification. Her skin colour is considered a boost to the image of the company. Ordinarily, light-skinned ladies are considered more desirable as faces of a company, especially when the employers making the decisions are mostly men. I have been on a few interviewing panel of such scenarios and from experience, I know a lone voice does not change the mind-set of male colleagues especially when they are confronted with choosing between what they consider ‘beauty or brain’. And if you are white, the job is almost definitely yours.

In black African countries, having white students in your school, boosts the reputation of the school.  The proprietor would even include as part of the school advertisement, the information that they have a white student.  The insinuation is that, if your school is good enough for white parents to enrol their child in, your school must be of the highest standard possible. White, once again, is associated with being ‘the best’.

When I was growing up in Nigeria, inter racial children were placed on a higher pedestal. They were only considered second in social ranking to white children. They were often the closet we got to actually meeting white children. They were adored, not vilified. They were given cute names like ‘Tokunbo’ (from abroad) or Oyibo pepper (White pepper/flavour) which solidified their superiority and adorableness! I was actually surprised when I moved to UK and realised that inter-racial children are often subjected to ridicule and interracial people are subjected to racial abuse and considered low in social rankings!

As the expatriates or any white man knows, if you visit African countries, you do not have to prove that you are rich; your skin colour is all the proof you need. You can visit bars and the ladies would be willing to go all the way with you without needing to prove that you have the money to pay for their services. All the proof they need is in your skin colour. The black men on the other hand need to prove they can pay. Now, that is white privilege.

Some blacks might think we should move on and stop blaming racism for our woes, but the fact is racism is here.

We cannot ignore racism just because it makes us uncomfortable.

We cannot ignore racism because we now have white friends.

We cannot ignore racism because we are parents to inter racial children.

We cannot ignore racism because we have white in-laws.

Acknowledging and fighting Racism is not about our comfort zone, it is about confronting the social structures that supports the continued marginalisation and oppression of persons of colour.

If you would blink an eye if a young white girl was shot dead by a police officer on suspicion of shoplifting but would not blink an eye when an unarmed young black boy was shot dead by a white police officer on suspicion of shoplifting, you are part of the problem.

Here is a VERY useful article To Address Ignorant &/Or Misguided Questions and Statements on #Ferguson. It is a must read and contain useful information for those who are willing to take on the apologists that whine “But it is not about colour”, “Can’t we just move on”, “My best friend is black” My In-Laws are white”, “But he shoplifted”, “Why riot and loot”, “What if Mike Brown was white” etc. Special thanks to all the writers, commenters, and bloggers who came together to curate this masterpiece of information and are still working tirelessly to update the loads of information and facts in the write-up.

Remember, #BlackLivesMatter.

 

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Relate Link:

When we say #BlackLifeMatters, please don’t butt in with your blind privilege

Comments

  1. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Thanks for writing, Yemmy. I am absolutely horrified at the American justice system at this stage. I don’t even know what to say anymore. But what gets me most of all is the people (almost always white) who accuse you of “playing the race card” when you talk about shit like this.

    Thanks again for writing.

  2. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk -- You are welcome and yeah, the “You are playing the race card” attack is very irritating.

  3. Anna Franklin says

    I do see many examples of racism, institutionalized racism, etc. There’s also a huge problem with police brutality. I’m a homeless person and was once raped by two cops. Would you consider me to be more privileged than you? Because hearing about how privileged you are when you haven’t had any sleep and your body hurts and you have no food in your stomach gets kind of old.

  4. Anna Franklin says

    For the record, I was angry when Mike Brown was shot, and when his killer wasn’t convicted. And I was angry when Trevon Martin was shot and his killer wasn’t convicted. And I was angry when it happened to that white guy in Alabama. And those other white guys, and angry when that asshole on the news said white people don’t shoot each other, black people do, because anybody with half a brain knows that’s wishful thinking of a racist. But, seriously, tell me how lucky I am. I need to hear it. After having been raped, been spat on, been beaten, been cut on impolite body parts I really need to hear about how lucky I am since my melatonin level isn’t very high.

  5. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Anna Franklin- You really need to read up on what White Privilege means. As this blogger eloquently put it in few yet powerful words: White Privilege does not mean

     that your life is awesome
     that you are rich
     that you are happy
     that you are perfect and/or flawless
     that you are pretty
     that you are abled bodied, cis, straight, or male
     nothing bad ever happened to you ever
     that a black/POC has never done some fucked up shit to you
     that black/POC can’t do fucked up shit
     that black/POC are perfect/flawless
     that you never cried
     that you never had pain
     that your family was here during slavery
     that you are intentionally a bad, terrible person
     that you can’t have a shitty day
     that all white people every where never had anything bad happen to them ever
     that your pain isn’t a valid emotion(do not mistake valid with appropriate, needed/wanted, unnecessary in a certain time or place)

    What having white privilege means:
     You, because of your whiteness and your whiteness alone, have uncountable and unfair advantages over POC because of centuries long oppression. These advantages can help you in every aspect of life and are completely unwarranted and built on murder, death, and hate.
     That you need to recognize this and get over it and work with POC to make everything 100% equal for everyone ever(who would say no to that?)
     That once everything is 100% equal in all aspects of life, there will be no white privilege to loathe.

  6. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Anna Franklin, Also, as this blger advised Here
    7. Avoid conflating other oppressions with racism unless it’s directly relevant to the conversation.
    In an often well-intentioned, yet half-hearted way of empathizing or identifying with someone else’s struggle with racism, it’s easy to say “I know what that’s like” because I’m gay, or a woman, or poor, or disabled, or a religious minority. These other identities may intersect with racial inequality, but are not about race.
    Yes, experiencing another form of oppression should help you empathize, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll ever really know what racism feels like.

    Instead, it can come off as insulting, or make it seem like you’d rather shift the discussion toward a subject you feel more comfortable talking about. Even worse, this type of conversational pivot can imply that your differing oppression takes priority, something that strains the potential bond that could be formed in the conversation.

    Also feel free to check out my blogpost When we say #BlackLifeMatters, please don’t butt in with your blind privilege

  7. Meggamat says

    American police seem to have skewed priorities. They did not photograph Brown’s corpse because they “forgot to put charged batteries in the camera” Has anybody in the USA avoided being shot by the police because the police did not load their guns? I think you have a point about institutional bias, and that bias manifests as skewed priorities, not as outright malice. Nobody shouts” I hate and want to kill you!”, but they do not go out of their way to prevent the deaths of citizens (particularly black, male and/or mentally ill citizens) who are suspected of wrongdoing.

  8. lpetrich says

    Yemisi, I find it interesting that black Africans often seem to have an inferiority complex about themselves, often respecting white people more than themselves. Could a part of it be that the white people who visit their nations are the sort with a lot of wealth and access to social connections and advancement opportunities?

    Also, US cops treating white people much more leniently than black people seems all too common. Even white people who threaten them, like Cliven Bundy and a certain Texas “Sovereign Citizen”. Yes, certain Americans like to call themselves “Sovereign Citizens”, exempt from taxes and laws that they dislike.

    I’m reminded of something very odd. In an interview in Rolling Stone magazine early in 1989, pop singer Madonna recalled something odd about her childhood. She is very obviously Caucasoid, but she grew up among black people and she claimed that she wanted to be black. She tried weaving wire into her hair so she could get tight curls (The Rolling Stone Interview: Madonna | Rolling Stone). So she felt that her white features made her inferior in the little bit of society that she moved in.

  9. TJ Smith says

    Like telling someone on the day their dad died, “You’re so lucky!” This poster showed empathy, and disdain for being called privileged when she clearly isn’t. I like your empathy, Yemisi. It’s non-existent.

  10. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Meggamat- Yes, you are right, the “forgot to put charged batteries in the camera” thing is definitely ‘skewed priorities’ and fishy. BTW, some of them shout “I hate and want to kill you!” or “I hate your black ass and want you out of this country” they just don’t say it when the camera is charged and ready to roll.

  11. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @lpetrich- Black people don’t necessarily have an inferiority complex about themselves, what you see is the harmful effect of centuries of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, revisionism and the ever in your face “White is better” media hype.

    You wrote-

    Could a part of it be that the white people who visit their nations are the sort with a lot of wealth and access to social connections and advancement opportunities?

    The first white people who visited black nations did not require wealth or a visa. Even though uninvited, they were welcomed by the natives, who fed and provided roof over their white heads. In return, the white uninvited guests took over the natives’ land, dehumanised them, carted them off to centuries of slavery, and destroyed their dignity. Centuries later, some natives have part of their land back, but dignity once so brutally destroyed, is not that easily restored.

    I read your link on Madonna’s interview, and that one paragraph where she mentioned that as a child growing up amongst black people, she admired the hair of her black friends and attempted to weave her own hair to look like theirs and she wanted to be black because blacks according to her “have souls “. Reading this,, how on earth did you come to the conclusion,

    So she felt that her white features made her inferior in the little bit of society that she moved in.

    You could try understanding the ‘Othering of blacks by white people’. Talking about human beings who are physically different from you as exotic, is not a compliment, it is ‘Othering’.
    Also, you might want to consider cultural appropriation before jumping to the very unlikely conclusion that Madonna felt inferior living amongst blacks. Copying is not always the highest’ form of flattery, sometimes it is just mere cultural appropriation.

  12. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @TJ Smith- When a white person invades a discussion about white privilege to narrate how bad she as a white person has had it in life, they should not expect a candy, a pat on the back, or a group hug. It is an invasion and an attempted effort to invalidate their white privilege via denial.

    What should we do when white people who have experienced or are experiencing hardships deny having any white privilege? Well, educate and enlighten them on the meaning of white privilege. And that exactly is what I took time out to do in my above comments. I not only provided links to other relevant materials, I actually took the time to copy and paste relevant definitions and quotes from other blogs.

    If as a white person, you invade a blog about racism, to claim reverse racism while narrating that one experience when a black person was nasty to you, don’t expect a group hug.

    If as a white feminist woman, you invade a space where black feminist women are discussing how being black while also being a woman serves as an excuse for patriarchy to further oppress them, and you chose to talk about how all women suffer oppression equally, don’t expect a group hug.

    If as a man (White/black/PoC man), you invade a feminist space to talk about how men have it so bad too, don’t expect a group hug.

    If as a white person experiencing hardship, you invade a space where racism influenced horrors and murders are being discussed, don’t come screaming “Won’t someone please think about poor white people like me, we have it bad too!” no you don’t get a group hug, you get an education.

    Now, if after being educated, you continue to flaunt your ‘victimhood’ like a badge of honour that gives you a right to deny your privilege, you get treated as a troll.

    Since white privilege has been amply defined and illustrated in my post and comments, I can only treat your last two comments as trolling.
    Therefore TJ Smith, you might find yourself where trolls who invade my space are condemned to, in the trash can.

  13. StevoR says

    .. the first commenter, another black person, immediately wrote, “He shoplifted, he should be shot.”
    Really, I mean, really?

    I don’t know but it seems likely that that exact reaction may be what the commenter there meant to evoke -- i.e. it was intended as sarcasm?

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