We Stand For What We Tolerate

Originally published at: https://blog.metageek.net/2020/06/we-stand-for-what-we-tolerate/

I feel called upon to make some personal statements regarding the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent demonstrations that have swept across the United States and around the world.

First and foremost, BLACK LIVES MATTER.  The reason I have to make that statement is because I am part of a society whose behavior is inconsistent with those words.  I see you George Floyd. I see you Breonna Taylor. I see you Ahmaud Arbery.  I see you Trayvon Martin. I see you Michael Brown. 

This isn’t only about Black victims of police and vigilantes, though. In general, Black people in the U.S. are more likely to be victims of gun violence than white people. Black people are 6 times as likely to be incarcerated as white people.  Black mothers are 3 times as likely as white mothers to die in childbirth. Black people are also 3 times as likely as white people to die from COVID-19. Black families are far more likely to face eviction and homelessness. This is what systemic racism looks like.

And I am complicit. I have benefited from and tolerated systemic racism. Everything I have accomplished in my life has been boosted by centuries of having the scales tipped in my favor. And my attitude about that has been, “Not my problem.” The reason it has taken me so long to make this statement is because I’m still in my own head about it. I’m not racist. There’s nothing I can do to change the system. This isn’t about me. Wrong. As a beneficiary of white privilege, I have more than my fair share of power. Therefore, I also bear the responsibility of fixing the injustice.

And yet, I feel so powerless. I am just one person, after all, so how can I effect change? I’m going to start by changing myself. For me, privilege is the ability to pick and choose when to be afraid. For almost everyone I know, that privilege is normal, and most of us never even think about it. I feel that whatever action I take is most meaningful if I find a way to share in the fear that systemic racism causes Black people to face daily. And that’s the point of this post–it makes me uncomfortable.  And, that is my commitment, right now–to BE UNCOMFORTABLE.

It was easy to talk myself out of writing this. What do I know? Who wants to hear from me? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I offend or alienate someone? What if I don’t say enough?  What if I say too much? What if I sound like a fraud? What if I AM a fraud? You know what? All of those things are true, and they are all going to happen here, and I’m just going to have to deal with that. That’s the whole point. I don’t know what it’s like to be afraid I might get beaten up or killed when I get pulled over. I don’t know what it’s like to get thrown in jail for possession of marijuana (I got community service). I don’t know what it’s like to be harassed in a coffee shop or stalked by store security just because of my appearance, and I can’t know.

I have been singled out and treated differently because of my skin color.  When I was 18, I moved to Cleveland, Ohio. I needed a part for my bicycle, so I looked up a bike shop (this was way before Google Maps) and started walking. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I ended up walking through a low-income, Black neighborhood. I had a half dozen different people (all of them Black) come up to me on the street and ask me where I was trying to go and warn me that I really shouldn’t be there–it wasn’t safe.  I was too stupid to be afraid (I was 18), and they were afraid for me–talk about privilege!

I share that story because that’s what I aspire to be as an ally to Black people living under and fighting to overcome systemic racism. My eyes are open now and I am afraid for you. My fear manifests in discomfort, and I am committed to stay uncomfortable. It’s hard, and it’s scary. I don’t think I have the courage to kneel when the national anthem is played before a football game I’m attending. I do (barely) have the courage to put myself out there in this post, and it’s a step. I’m uncomfortable, and I intend to stay that way.  I will tolerate systemic racism no longer.

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You are so misguided. While I share your passion to eliminate racism, you should research BLM a little more. MODERATOR EDIT: Removed conspiracy theories

Hi @radio.cbs! Welcome to the MetaGeek Community and thanks for posting. I’m glad that we share an antiracist worldview. If you re-read my post, you will see that I am not talking about any groups or organizations. I am making a statement that Black lives matter.

I agree that Black lives matter. I, and hopefully you, believe that life is precious, and that All lives matter.

God bless you, Dan

Of course they matter as do ALL lives.

I’m hopeful that we can continue civil discourse in this comment thread to develop deeper shared understanding. Recently, I have learned that there is no middle ground on racism. A person can either tolerate racism or be antiracist. The reason “All lives matter.” as a retort to “Black lives matter.” is considered tolerant of racism is because it dismisses the unique suffering of Black people due to systemic and personal racism over the centuries. That is to say, it changes the subject from the subject of racism and oppression to a generic statement that basically everyone agrees with.

On a personal note, as I say in the post, I won’t tolerate systemic racism, so I am not OK with changing the subject. As I also say in the post, I’m getting out of my comfort zone, not seeking an easy exit from the subject at hand back to the safety of generalization.

Brian, this statement is offensive because it assumes that everyone who is not black skinned is racist.
You may believe this but it is fundamentally wrong.
Treat everyone the same, be responsible for your own actions, do not blame others for your own shortcomings and look at the “content of your character and not the color of your skin” is the real solution.
Whether you are just pandering to the BLM crowd for business or are infused with “white guilt” ~ that is your problem to deal with.
Systemic racism is a term used to inflame, nothing not be more systemic or racist than “affirmative action” as it purely allows a skin color to derive benefits that others may not receive.
So, yes “all live matter” and treating everyone equal is not a “retort” but a cry for justice … for all.

I really appreciate you taking the time to explain where you are coming from. I get why my use of “retort” is offensive to you, and I apologize.

I also can understand that because I offended you, you are inclined to attack my character, but kindly refrain from doing so again. I am not pandering, and I resent the accusation.

As far as this being my issue to deal with–yes, that was the whole point of the post. And, again, I genuinely appreciate that you are willing to get in here and help me deal with it.

I can assure you that I don’t assume that everyone who is not Black is racist. I did not say that, nor does it logically follow from stating that Black lives matter. I think you are saying that it is “coded”, an unspoken message that rides on the words “Black lives matter.” If that is the case, then my objective in declaring that Black lives matter is to take back the meaning of the words and make them honest.

I just think the world is a better place when people say what they mean and words mean what they say. I believe and can very comfortably say that ALL lives matter and I echo your cry for justice for all. I also believe and am comfortable saying that Black lives matter. Saying Black lives matter doesn’t lessen my belief that all lives matter. It just helps to focus on a very specific problem.

The problem is that Black lives are ending early and preventably more often than the lives of the population at large, and especially compared to white lives. I pointed out some of the stark differences in my post. I think we can do better as a society, and I want to do better. And, I should point out that having conversations like this feels to me like a great first step in trying to do better. Thank you, again.

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Brian - I very much appreciate your post. I just stumbled on it, but it speaks truth, and I know it was not easy to write. There is an elephant in the room that we consistently avert our eyes from in this country. Our “democracy” was founded, and its economy largely built on the enslavement of millions of Africans, innocents who were kidnapped, clapped in irons, and shipped halfway around the world in the most wretched conditions imaginable. Those who survived this middle passage to the “new world” were displayed naked on auction blocks like animals, sold to the highest bidder, stripped of their cultures and families, and then marched in chains across the South to very literally be worked to death. This terror and misery went on for centuries (!) and resulted in the original accumulation of much of the vast wealth of this country. Talk about white privilege!

This is the indisputable reality of our US history, which we avert our eyes from, and tolerate it being concealed from our people: hundreds of years of the most barbaric enslavement of dark-skinned human beings, which had utterly no resemblance to our fairytale “Gone with the Wind” myths of the gallant South. This history also includes constant resistance and rebellions of the enslaved. Chattel slavery was finally abolished as a secondary result of a bloody civil war, only to be replaced by a systematized structure of laws, codes, and traditions resulting in another 100 “Jim Crow” years of continuing disenfranchisement and oppression of the ex-slaves and their descendants.

To this day we are still mired in this reality, it is very far from being “ancient history” as some like to imagine. Your post illuminates a few of the stark, brutal disparities that Black people suffer, and that we whites continue to tolerate. We venerate our founding fathers, almost all of them slave owners, and flaunt their portraits on our money. We boast of our democratic principles, and our “American traditions of equality”, when both are totally stained with the enslavement of Black people. We have placed monuments to the “vanquished” slaveholders and their generals in our parks, and emblazoned their names on our buildings and bases, you would think the union lost the war. In fact, a very sizable subculture in our society still reveres the filthy flag of slavery a 150 years later. And we tolerate it, call it tradition. The time for tolerance of racism, slavery, and its continuing legacy is over…

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