Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Social commentary on Facebook (Baltimore)

D asks me sometimes, "Why do you stay on FB if it pisses you off so badly?"

It doesn't piss me off, really, but the comments and postings I see on it confuse me on a regular basis. And I don't necessarily mean bad "confuse."  Confusion, if it makes a person consider and reflect, is actually a terrific thing in my book.

So it is, at the moment, that I am "confused" about the reaction to the Baltimore riots.

I feel like I should preface any comment I make with the obvious declaration that as a suburban, white woman I have no earthly idea what it is like to be an urban, black person.  I am so smothered in privilege that I don't know which end is up.

But, here's the thing:  I understand why they are rioting, or at least I feel like I get it.  When people riot, destroy things, hurt others in anger, I understand it.

Although I believe nonviolence is a much harder road to take (to restrain oneself is an act of supremely powerful will), I totally understand
that anger can fester....
that sometimes people lash out and regret it later....
that anger is not to be ignored or belittled.

I read A Raisin in the Sun with my 9th/10th graders this semester, and we talked about a number of race issues, such as what an Uncle Tom is and which characters acted "white" and what that means.  We discussed what stereotypes we have of "acting black" and "acting white."  I recently read Across Five Aprils and The Brothers' War:  Civil War Voices in Verse, which I will be using with my middle schoolers next year.  I think, despite so many positive changes, there are still so many issues related to racism that our country hasn't figured out.

I'm certainly no expert, but I like to think reading the things I have read keeps me humble, keeps me from thinking that "those people are just crazy, wrong, thugs, etc" (which is some of the stuff I've seen on FB about the rioters in Baltimore).

Why are they angry?
Would you feel the same anger in similar circumstances?
How would you handle your anger if given those same circumstances
(not your current circumstances, which may play a huge role in how you think you would address injustice)?

Why is their anger any worse, why are they more thug-like, than the white folks who burn their couches when their basketball team wins or loses?  To me, at least, the folks in Baltimore are making a stink over something far more important and complex than a danged sports game.

The comments I see are ones that make me feel I have to choose a side.  I'm either right or I'm wrong. I either choose the black side or the white side.

Does a person have to be black to question racial profiling?

Does a person have to be black to remember other race riots from many years ago (Rodney King verdict) over law enforcement/criminal justice?

Does a person have to be black to wonder how a man dies from a spinal injury that didn't exist prior to being arrested by the police?

Does a person have to be white to fear that thinking such things means he/she will be accused of not supporting law enforcement?

Does a person have to be anything to ask whether both sides of the equation are failing in their own particular ways? 

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