“There’s this statistic that explains why white people have a hard time understanding what’s going on in Ferguson. This article explains that statistically speaking, white people only ever really hang out with other white people. Like: 91% of white people’s social circles are comprised of other white people. Ninety-one percent!
‘Oh, god,’ I thought. ‘No wonder we have a hard time listening to each other. I can’t imagine having such a limited perspective into the experiences of minorities – only 9%! I mean, it’s a good thing my social circle is wider than that! I’m so glad that my perception of the world around me is influenced by many diverse voices!’”
“I am not here to talk about the grand jury process. I am not here to speculate about the possible motivations of the prosecution. I am not here to go full Serial on Darren Wilson’s testimony. I am not here to question why the medical examiner didn’t go buy camera batteries, and I am not here to wonder why the information surrounding the tape at the convenience store was leaked in such a specific and odd manner. I’m not here to talk about whether or not Michael Brown was a good kid, or a bad kid, or on drugs, or a robbery suspect. I’m not here to talk about any of that. It’s a worthwhile conversation, mind you, but not the one I’m interested in right now.
I’m here to tell you instead, fellow white people, that Ferguson is about more than just one scared cop and one unarmed black teenager.
I’m here to ask you, fellow fishes, to wake up and smell the water.
I’m asking you to consider, if you have not already, that the anger and frustration pouring out of Ferguson is outrage at a system of power that does not include minority voices.
I’m asking you to imagine what it must be like to experience inequality, every single day, in ways that are sometimes small and subtle and sometimes overt and unjust.
I’m asking you to consider what it must be like to walk home at night and watch white people cross the street, fearful of their own safety. I’m asking you to imagine trying to hail a cab after a long day at work, but no cabs will stop. I’m asking you to imagine changing your name on a job application, because no one will hire you. I’m asking you to imagine telling your children not to wear hoodies when they leave the house, just in case.
I’m asking you to imagine putting your faith in a school system that suspends black students at triple the rate of their white peers, all the while cheerfully preaching the gospel of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but only, mind you, during the designated month of February. I’m asking you to imagine living in a shitty house in a shitty neighborhood, not because you want to, but because you are unable to move elsewhere due to housing discrimination.
And then – and only then, once you think about the everyday reality, once you actually try to imagine living your life without the benefits that being white has afforded you, I want you to consider what it must feel like hear the story of Roy Middleton, who was shot fifteen times in his own driveway because a neighbor assumed he was breaking into his own car. I’m asking you to consider the story of Henry Davis, who was beaten viciously by the Ferguson police department and later charged with property destruction for getting blood on their uniforms.
And then I’m asking you to consider what it must be like, to consider the body of Michael Brown, lying lifeless on the street for four and a half hours, and think, “Michael Brown looks like my brother. Michael Brown looks like my husband. Michael Brown looks like my son. Michael Brown looks like me.”
Racism isn’t over because Barack Obama is president. Racism isn’t over because Beyoncé. Racism isn’t over because Oprah. Racism didn’t end when we all read To Kill a Mockingbird in tenth-grade English class, and it’s not over now.
Racism is when you reduce a human being to a series of beliefs, stereotypes, or cultural identities that remove their ability to be seen as a unique individual. Just as you wouldn’t minimize any of my personal problems related to being a woman by saying, “But your problems aren’t real, because Hillary Clinton and Taylor Swift are both doing pretty great for themselves!!” – you cannot argue that having a black president is the hallmark of a country that has moved beyond the issues of race.
Racism is when you equate all black people in Ferguson with the specific few vandals who were looting buildings and smashing windows. Racism is inherent in the word “thugs.”
(Double irony points if you’re using the word “thug” now, but were one of the people celebrating on Broad Street in Philadelphia during the 2008 Phillies World Series win, when cars were burned and windows smashed and storefronts destroyed. I remember that evening well. Back then, we called them “fans.”)”
“But as Ferguson burned, I also read posts from my white friends about how excited you are for Black Friday deals. Your outrage at FedEx for a misplaced package. Nail art. Weight loss advice.
You are the same people who dumped buckets of ice over your heads for ALS. You are the same people who wear t-shirts emblazoned with “Boston Strong.” You post that same picture of an eagle and the American flag on 9/11. “Never Forget.”
And when the riots began, you were …. instagramming photos of your dinner? Excited about your new H+M sweater? You literally have more to say about The Big Bang Theory than a national ******* tragedy?
I also received several OkCupid messages that night. All from white dudes. No, I don’t want to come to Cherry Hill and eat pizza with you. I’m watching the world burn down.
What that tells me is that, for some of you, the destruction in Ferguson was not a “Never Forget” situation, or a national tragedy, or even something to be particularly concerned about … because the bodies in the streets did not look like yours, or your family’s. Because it looks like “other.” Because the problems faced by Black America are not the same as the problems faced by White America, and therefore, they aren’t worth considering.
Perhaps you don’t see this because your number is closer to 99% than 91%.”