By Greg Montas
“People don’t have any mercy. They tear you limb from limb, in the name of love. Then, when you’re dead, when they’ve killed you by what they made you go through, they say you didn’t have any character. They weep big, bitter tears – not for you. For themselves, because they’ve lost their toy.”
– James Baldwin, Another Country
Part one of my examination of modern-day racism in America focused on explicit and implicit bias against Black men as one of many reasons why some people tend to victim blame.
The other reason I will discuss for victim blaming being so prevalent when the victims of police violence are Black is a rather dangerous form of apathy for the Black body. This type of apathy has had major consequences over the years. It’s what allowed people to accept the brutal and racist tactics that came with the failed “war on drugs”. In her book ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’, Michelle Alexander states “If 100 percent of the people arrested and convicted for drug offenses were African American, the situation would provoke outrage among the majority of Americans who consider themselves non-racist and who know very well that Latinos, Asian Americans, and whites also commit drug crimes. We, as a nation, seem comfortable with 90 percent of the people arrested and convicted of drug offenses in some states being African Americans.” People think these statistics are “normal”, perhaps an unfortunate consequence of “their culture”. Of course, numerous studies have shown that drug use is close to equal across races, and law enforcement’s specific targeting of black communities causes the drug arrest disparities. But to someone who is indifferent to people who don’t look like him/her, this level of nuance is never achieved.
Here is the reality: racism is still prevalent in society in large part because not enough people care enough to acknowledge it’s existence. No condition is cured without addressing it directly. Alcoholism isn’t cured by pretending it doesn’t exist. Cancer doesn’t go away just because talking about it makes you uncomfortable. Racism is the elephant in the room, on your bed. If you want to live in an equal and just America, if you actually believe that America is the land of the free, you can start by honestly and compassionately addressing that elephant.
You have a choice to make, similar to the one you’ll make in the voting booth on November 8: do you prefer justice for all, including those who don’t look like you, or do you prefer silence? Do you value equality, or comfort? Is the sight of people standing up for your precious national anthem more important to you than the concerns of people who want this country to live up to that songs lofty lyrics? Make your choice.