Sunday, December 14, 2014

Living in the St. Louis area during the moment of the Michael Brown Protests

I am not going to intentionally post anything that will ignite flames. I don’t even really want to talk about who was right and who was wrong, because, frankly, I don’t see this as a binary issue. There was wrong on both sides of the argument, and Michael Brown supporters and Darren Wilson supporters both truly are fighting over something incredibly deeper than the particular act of the shooting. 

Do I have an opinion on it? Yes. Will I share it? Absolutely not, publicly. I don’t want to touch the core of the debate with a 20-foot pole. People are losing friends over this by making statements they know too little about. I want no part in it.


What this blog post is about is what it’s like to live in the St. Louis area during all of this. I’m a white man. I’m privileged. What I write here is not a generalization of what everyone’s life is like; this is what my personal observations have been. I’m not even in the city. I live across the river in the nearby Belleville. That’s about 18 minutes to downtown. 


Many of my white friends and family are scared to go downtown because of the violence. They’re afraid that the protests will come over to this side of the river. They’re scared of talking about anything with black people, because they don’t want to say the wrong thing. Obviously, I harbor that, too. Who wants to be accidentally offensive? Most of my white friends are intelligent enough to understand that there’s no way they could ever understand what it’s like to be black, and so to speak about it with a black person is going into a hot-button topic with a layer of ignorance.


White people in STL, it seems, are less scared to say anything they want behind the keys of a computer. On the day that the indictment was decided, there was a slew of blatantly racist garbage posted to social media, by people I would have never thought to feel the way they apparently do. Let it be known, I hate racism. It is ugly. I deleted several people because of how nasty some of the postings were. It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on about this; there’s no reason to be racist. 


I remember when #NotAllMen and #YesAllWomen were trends on Twitter. Men wanted to come out and say that not all of them were nuts after a crazed guy with a non-existent lovelife went on a shooting rampage at a sorority, and feminists responded to those men by saying that it doesn’t matter how good some men are because all women have to face the bad men. That same sort of thing is going on in STL, but instead of women and men it’s black and white people. White people want to say, “We’re not all racists,” but black people respond, “It doesn’t matter because all black people deal with racists.” I can’t speak for black people, but white people feel accused (not me, but in general). They feel like all black people hate them now over something one person did. I can understand why black people might not care how white people feel, because this moment, they probably feel, is about them.


Of course, I believe that there is a race problem in the USA. That is an obvious fact. I believe black lives matter. Something needs to be done about it. What that is, I don’t know. I’m not saying anything about the shooting specifically, however white people still have special privileges in all aspects of everyday life. That needs to change. There is no freedom until all people are treated equally. I suppose that is the most important part of all this. I think the conversation is a good place to start. This is my contribution to keeping the talk alive.

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