We white people have so many outlets for our anger. We have gun demonstrations, rallies, strikes, countless varieties of fitness classes and therapy, and yes, rap rock. We even get a fair amount of rioting done.
But when non-white people get angry, we seem unable to take it. “Whoa,” we say to the people of color upset about Ferguson. “Didn’t your hero Martin Luther King preach non-violence? That worked so well for him. Why can’t you learn?”
Or we might say something like, “Nothing will be accomplished unless we talk about this in a civilized manner.” That’s a particularly stinging word to throw in there — civilized. White people have been defining “uncivilized” as anything non-white for over 500 years.
We might say, “You catch more flies with honey.” In this case, white people always get to be the flies, and minorities always have to be the honey. “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” we might say. But in that case, white people get to be wrong, and non-white people have to be right. They don’t get to have anger. They have to be polite and even deferential if they want us to listen, we seem to say.
White people don’t love talking about race. Why? Because it doesn’t affect us directly, so it’s kind of a “bummer.” It’s kind of “boring” to some white people. If you’re going to force us to talk about race, so many white people say, please at least make it funny. Or precious and beautiful, thought provoking and entertaining. But please don’t make it angry. That’s no fun.
We don’t have to experience racism, but we still get to control the conversation about it, mostly because we control everything. But none of this is in any way “fun” for the people experiencing it. It’s not funny, beautiful or prosaic. It’s terrifying, dehumanizing and heartbreaking. It’s so much more than just a conversation happening on Facebook that you can’t get away from. (How many white people are thinking of Ferguson this way?) It’s saying “Your child could be murdered randomly by the people charged with ‘keeping the peace’ and there’s no sliver of a guarantee of justice.”
So don’t sit there, fellow white people, and get upset about why people are rioting about the fact that Michael Brown’s family might see no justice at all, and that we’ve learned nothing from the Trayvon Martin murder. Stop rolling your eyes when people talk about racism, and stop thinking arguments about it are invalid if they include even the mildest hint of anger. If this shit happened to white people, heads would roll.
We just don’t want to admit that non-white people’s anger is upsetting because we know deep down it’s aimed at us. And worse, we know we deserve it. Why? Because we don’t listen. Because we benefit from not listening and we have for hundreds of years. So start listening, and start accepting anger. There’s a lot to be mad about.