Friday, July 22, 2016

American Racism: Are Black or White Americans to Blame?

I've been a racial minority, living in America, for the better part of a week now – last Saturday, the movers brought our furniture to mine and Jeff's new apartment in what's pretty obviously the “black part” of town in Decatur, Georgia, one of the many kudzu-infested suburbs of Atlanta. There might be some other white folks living in my giant (couple hundred units) apartment complex, but I have not yet seen them.

So far this week, I've been the only white person making withdrawals from the bank, the only white person eating at the fast-food joint, the only white person gassing up my car, one of a tiny handful of white people shopping at various grocery stores and cheap-marts, and – this is the situation with the greatest potential for negative or even fatal consequences for ordinary American non-cops like me – the only my-skin-color person in eyesight and gunshot range of several not-my-skin-color police officers.

What problems has my racial minority status caused me thus far? None. Everyone's been perfectly friendly and no one, especially not the cops, pays me any particular notice.

Now imagine the same situation with the colors reversed: Jeff and I are a black couple, newly transplanted to the deep South, who recently took up residence in an otherwise all-white community patrolled (of course) by white cops. What happens then?

Were this a stand-up comedy routine rather than a blog post, I could've ended it right there and basked in the audience's knowingly bitter laugh. Because in America you don't have to “imagine” the experiences of black people moving into white neighborhoods and encountering white cops; you only have to remember them. Nor would the fact that my small self radiates harmlessness like a stench keep me safe from a trigger-happy “peace officer” who'd already decided my skin tone made Mirror-Universe Me a threat; as I type this, the victim of the most recent “police shooting of unarmed man with his hands up” incident was a North Miami behavioral therapist talking to an autistic client holding a toy truck. There's no way to keep safe from cops eager to shoot such people; the best you can hope for is that their aim's crappy enough to avoid hitting whichever of your vital organs they seek to destroy.

The plural of “anecdote” is not “data,” but in today's political landscape it is; Donald Trump mentions one American killed by an illegal immigrant drunk driver, and thus concludes all illegal immigrants are deadly threats to the citizenry.

So I'll do the same thing. Given the ever-growing list of anecdotes illustrating the theme “Black Americans mistreated by white Americans, especially when the latter wields a badge,” plus the anecdote “my magnolia-white self surrounded by black Americans hasn't attracted so much as a sideways glance,” this is the only reasonable conclusion: the racial and race-based problems facing America today (or, since its inception) are primarily the fault of white Americans, not black ones. Captain Obvious told me I oughtta point this out.

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