When ignoring racism’s existence doesn’t work

I decided about a year ago that I will never step into a theater again…until I have a less antsy child. Yes I was that parent that everyone hates at the theater. In my defense I really thought we would be able to get through to the movie without a peep, my child up until then had been fairly easy to care for. Anyways all this to say that I don’t go out to the movies anymore, so any movie that I want to see I anxiously wait  for it to come out on DVD so I can watch it. My sister and I had marked the date that Straight Outta Compton came out and finally watched it this week.

The movie not only talks about NWA’s highs and lows but also brings in the Rodney King case. It’s a piece that could have been left out of the movie because it doesn’t change NWA’s history but I believe it was intentional. It seems that the directors left it purposely to tie the movie in with the today’s issues.

I admit I had to do a little research on Rodney King because it’s not something brought up in history class, the same way we kind of gloss over the history of slavery and the civil rights movement. They kind of get lumped into 1 week of lessons and then we go back to learning about something else.

So to the case. Rodney King, along with 2 other passengers were pulled over by police officers in L.A in 1991. He was pulled over due to going over the speed limit, and as police tailed him King increased his speed leading into a high speed chase. Eventually King was cornered.  The officers ordered the 3 men to lay face down on the ground. This is when an onlooker started filming how the officers treated King and submitted the video to the press.

I watched part of the footage from that incident and you can see the officers using batons to repeatedly beat King, kick him, and step on his face (or neck?). And in case you didn’t know, Rodney King was black.

King was hospitalized and although the officers were put on trail, three were acquitted of charges. The fourth officer was charged but the jury couldn’t agree on one of the charges. The acquittals are considered to have incited many riots across the U.S. particularly in cities where race tensions were already high.

So now that you’ve had that little history lesson, this incident was tied into Straight Outta Compton which was released in August 2015. Exactly a year after Michael Brown, 9 months after Tamir Rice, 4 months after Walter Scott and after many other deaths of unarmed African American men at the hands of police officers. 25 years after the Rodney King case and the video from 1991 is just as relevant today to the situation between race relations as it was then.

People will continue to argue that all these instances are not race related. That these situations were men acting suspiciously and fearful police officers acted as they should to take control of the situation, the men just happened to be black. I hear people say I wish we could just stop talking about race, that all lives matter, to stop pulling the race card, because slavery was abolished and Martin Luther King gave us equal rights. And although I do not agree with you, I see where you’re coming from.

Because you may not understand the reality of what it’s like to be a minority in the United States. And sometimes I’ll admit it, not all of us minorities understand what it’s like to be a black man in America. Part of the reason is because it’s not our reality.

I read today a post from a blogger with a way larger audience than I. So my idea to write on this was inspired by her. I know you’re a smart cookie and can read so I’ll link her post here: Race Ya. What really stuck out to me is something that I kind of already had a hunch for. The reason why white people can’t relate to the issues of #blacklivesmatter and other race issues is that for the most part their social circle is compromised mostly of other white people. But it’s not just white people, I know minorities of all different backgrounds that don’t think they should care about black lives. And this is concerning to me.

When a unarmed black teenage boy is killed I see my son. He’s Mexican American but in my head I think that could be him. And I feel that mothers pain, and I feel that communities anger that no one pays for that boys death. The simple fact that my boy, because he’s a minority is more likely to be killed by police is scary enough to want some real change to happen about the way people understand prejudice. At some point I’m going to have to give the talk about how to act to avoid police attention to my son. A talk that I’m not sure I can handle yet.

Take a look around your surroundings. Take a look at your friends, your neighbors. I don’t know yours but I’m sitting in a 4 bedroom house, in a predominately white town, working in a predominately white business, with predominately Latino friends, with a Bachelor of Arts, a car, and a multitude of experiences that make me privileged. I’m not rich by any means, but I have a different reality than say Laquan Mcdonald who was shot 16 times by police officers in Chicago in 2013.

And although my reality is different, I try really hard to see things from the other side. I try to understand why 60% of people that are incarcerated are people of color while they only make 30% of the population. I try to understand why minorities (again only making 30% of the U.S. population) make up 47.2% of the population that is killed by police, and why more minorities make up the amount of unarmed people killed by police.

I’m trying to wrap my head around how a predominately Black city in the U.S. does not have drinkable running water in 2016. I’m trying to understand why 50% of minorities that go to college aren’t graduating, and why when they do have the degree they’re still not getting the jobs. I try to understand a reality that is not mine. (Although I’m a statistic of my own but more on that another day).

I will probably get an eye roll from 1 or 2 people if you made it down this far already. Well maybe if you’re reading this you’re probably a friend of mine and you’re probably a social activist and are with me the whole way here. The point is that if you’re not seeing the facts and you’re not trying to see them then I understand why you think we abolished racism along with slavery. And when I understand that, I can begin to understand how we have guys like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz leading the Republican party.

But just because you have a friend that’s black, and a cousin that’s Puerto Rican does not mean that you’re free of prejudice. Because by ignoring racism’s existence you’re perpetuating it.

 

Photo credit: Light Brigading via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC

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