By Arielle Newton
If you’re white and are surprised that the Dept. of Justice found racism in the Ferguson Police Department, you’re part of the problem.
For decades, the Black community has been telling you that the entire framework of law enforcement is embedded in racist and prejudicial principles that actively repress Black folk and violate our civil rights and liberties, and lead to our deaths. We’ve been creative in our messaging; using campaigns, social media, conferences, and a slew of other communicative platforms that courageously detail the facts of our existence.
But this isn’t good enough until a white-centered authority validates us. It isn’t until our lived experiences are quantified by an authoritative figure (in this case, the federal Dept. of Justice) that our stories are deemed credible and valid.
Some white folk take in issue with the very idea that racism is a cancerous stain in present society, and that is finds itself in the methods by which society is structured and functions. The Black experience of racism is easily dismissed behind indolent excuses that racism only lives individual instances that don’t expand to an entire systematic design of which these individual instances are a part.
And that’s being generous; some white folk think that racism doesn’t exist, even on an individual level, at all. We’re either too sensitive, or we’re opportunistic race-baiters when we publicly denounce the forms of racism which affect our daily livelihoods.
But when authority steps in and says “Yea, white people, racism exists and it harms Black people,” all of a sudden you start listening. Not to us, but to the authority figures that substantiate certain parts of our stories.
And even then you listen vaguely, finding every possible excuse to dismiss the data with even more lazy misunderstandings of what racism is.
This isn’t to say that statistics don’t have value in sociological phenomena; the benefits of research are profound and numerous. But when you rely exclusively on the words of a think tank, government, or some other well-financed enterprise, without qualifiable analysis through personal anecdotes, that leads to the erasure and dismissal of the cultural labor that Black folk perform.
Think of all the time, energy, manpower, and other resources spent on trying to convince you of something Black folk already knew and have been gracious enough to tell you. Think of how these resources could’ve been spent elsewhere, like towards the fantastic Books and Breakfast programs that help the very same communities affected by the racism of Ferguson police.
If you’re at all surprised by the report, you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t see racism when a white officer gunned down a Black teenager in broad daylight and did not face judicial reprisal, you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t see racism in how an entire police unit left a Black body in the street for over four and a half hours upon the traumatic eyes of Black witnesses, you’re part of the problem. If you didn’t see racism in the rapid militarization of multiple law enforcement units in response to protestors, the criminalization of Ferguson protesters, the victim blaming, shaming and ultimate mongrelization of Mike Brown, or the numerous ways in which the case was mishandled, you’re part of the problem.
This post originally appeared on Black Millennials
Photo: Ferguson/Wikimedia Commons