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 was 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:
“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.
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.
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.