It’s a sunny Saturday morning in July and I’m awake unusually early. Normally I set my alarm for 7 am, quite optimistically, and then promptly smack the snooze button until around 9. And then every night, before bed, I announce to John, “I’m gonna get up early tomorrow and run!”
But today I woke up and stayed awake, in part because I stupidly reached for my phone and started scrolling through Facebook. And amidst all the cute baby pictures and adorable dog videos (which honestly make the day more bearable), I keep seeing this one annoying meme that makes me want to tear my hair out.
It goes like this (and there’s usually a sepia-toned photo of a black guy in the background, you know, for diversity):
“Not all cops are bad.
Not all black people are criminals.
Not all Hispanics are illegal immigrants (????).
Not all white people are racist.
But ignorance comes in all colors.”
And it makes my blood boil. Because of course, it’s logically true. The “not all” statement is unquestionably accurate.
The reason it upsets me is because it completely skews the true problem. It’s one of those “we’re all one human family” bullshit statements which is technically true, but still manages to ignore the plight of people of color, particularly Black people, by attempting to silence or invalidate their concerns.
It’s along the same lines of women speaking up about sexual assault and harassment and some dude posting a meme that says, “Not all women are whores. Not all men are sexist pigs. But ignorance comes in both* genders.”
So you’re basically saying that yes, some women ARE whores… so we should abolish this movement! Not ALL men are sexist pigs!!!! So there’s no need for you to complain!!!!
This is what this toxic meme is saying, in my interpretation. It throws in some people of other races to try and dilute what it really wants to say: “I’M WHITE, AND I’M NOT RACIST.”
You know this wasn’t made by a Black person (probably), because the fact is that most Black people are not criminals, and Black people committing crimes in the U.S. is not a widespread, systematic problem. Is Black people being arrested more frequently and punished more severely for the same crimes white people commit a problem? Undoubtedly, yes. Are some Hispanic and Latinx folks undocumented? Of course. Most of them, however, are not. This is another harmful stereotype that holds much less weight than the idea that white people could be racist. The reason I point this out is that throwing in these useless ideas reinforce systematic racism — and place outdated and harmful stereotypes on the same level as facts.
I am going to say something that may upset you. I am talking to my beloved white relatives here, who may have grown up in a time when it was okay to use racial slurs and deny people of color, especially Black people, fundamental human rights. Some of you may not see a problem, but I can promise you that there is one. And we need you to help solve it.
All white people, to some degree, have been indoctrinated with racist prejudices and beliefs from the time we were small. I can admit it; you should be able to as well. If we as white people look at our thoughts, our actions, the subtle ways we saw people of color talked about and treated when we were kids, then we will see that yes… all white people have internalized racist thoughts and ideas because it’s what we heard growing up. And we have benefited from a system here in the U.S. that has largely been designed to keep Black people and other people of color at a distinct disadvantage.
And it is not our fault.
But do you know what is? Continuously denying that we, individually, are part of the problem; that it’s other white people. Never us. We’re not racist, and we’re willing to make subtle Internet memes that undermine the dignity of Black and Hispanic people to prove it.
Are all white people racist? Of course not. But racism in America was initiated and perpetuated by white people when we came here and built a system that benefited us at the expense of everyone else. Because of that, we were born into racial privilege. Dudes were born into penis privilege. The wealthy were born into class privilege. It is a simple concept that costs us nothing to admit. Only when we admit it can we begin to change.
There is one final part of this annoying meme that I have to address. “Not all cops are bad.”
Well, no shit. Cops protect people every day. They give their lives every day. They sacrifice every day. They deserve respect and accolades for what they do.
But can we look at the events of the last few years and possibly admit that perhaps there is a problem the the legal and criminal justice system? Absolutely. And we can do that without hating police officers. We can ask them to change the systems that disproportionately harm people of color and poor people. We can ask them to reassess what they’re doing to keep everyone safe. The fact is that enough police-related events have ended in destruction, death, and mayhem that it warrants examination.
So this meme basically tries to silence a few voices:
- Black voices, which we all need to be hearing & listening to right now
- Hispanic and Latinx voices
- The voices of law enforcement officers who can see that something is wrong
- The voices of any and all people who are standing up to try and fight for change.
Don’t let things like this silence you. Don’t let what you see on the Internet make you upset (I am guilty of this every day, hence the overload of cute videos on my page). Instead, write about it. Create a thoughtful, nuanced response. Stop sharing memes and pictures and actually come up with your own ideas. Do research. Look at CDC and DOJ statistics. Find fair and unbiased sources if you can. I am talking specifically to white people here, especially those who are having a hard time admitting that racism in the justice system, and in American life in general, is still hurting this country.
As a final note, there’s an update to the letter I shared in my previous post. The Chief of Police actually got back to me really quickly (which I was not expecting!) and wants to meet with me to answer my questions, which are in the email.
I’ll be meeting with him on Thursday, 7/14. I want to write about the meeting, our discussion, and hopefully his plans to create a safer community by reevaluating police protocols. So, I’ll let you know how it goes!
With all of that said… I woke up really upset this morning. I know this day will get better. Gonna go blow off some steam at the gym.
❤ Stand up for what is right. I love you all!