I’ve posted an article or a link here and there, where some other author has responded to recent events in Police State America. I haven’t said much myself, partly because I don’t feel like my white-assed, privileged words could possibly be worthwhile in a conversation about racism, partly because I really don’t have anything to say there that isn’t being said already by, like, everybody. Racism is wrong. It still exists. There are conscious and unconscious racists. I have privilege.
I get all of that.
And there’s not really a damn thing I can do about it.
(No, I am not going to censor my language this time. Everything about this situation fucking sucks, and white-washing my language isn’t going to help. Get pissed off. Please. You should be.)
Oh, sure, there are things I can do. I can pray to my gods for peace and balance and justice (and I hope your god(s) can save you when mine go on an injustice-fueled rampage!). I can constantly examine my thoughts, check myself and my every word, gesture, and bit of body language every time I encounter a person of color. I can educate my children, do my best to relay my feelings, teach them that everybody is equal no matter how much melanin is in their skin or how much curl is in their hair. I can also do my best to relay the (sometimes conflicting) things I have heard from persons of color about how we should behave as white people, what we should say, the language we should use, etc. I could fill my facebook feed with copied pictures, join a crowd with a sign that nobody will see.
That conflicting thing? Sometimes it makes me just want to hide in my house. It makes me afraid to open my mouth whenever I go skating, sometimes it even makes me question my clothing and hairstyle choices. It makes me afraid to say anything, because sometimes it feels like whenever I do say something, half the people I know are going to jump on me and tell me I’m doing it wrong. I’m going to piss somebody off no matter what I say. I’m sure I’m pissing people off right now. (You’re welcome.) Damned no matter what I say or do. So why not just be a hermit and avoid the whole issue? Shut my face, bow down under my privilege, not do a damn thing.
I can’t do that.
But what can I do? I can’t read minds, and I can’t force them to change. No matter how much legislation is passed, making laws won’t change people’s thinking. Only time, education, and exposure can do that. No amount of me making signs, sharing memes, or otherwise shouting from the rooftops, “RACISM IS WRONG!!!” is going to change the mind of an actual racist, nor is it going to make life any better for anybody suffering from systemic racism.
What I can do, what I can do to make a difference more quickly and have a concrete, positive effect on lives, is work to reduce the opportunities for the government to sanction racially-motivated violence. The whole reason cops end up using tactics like racial profiling is because they are trying to enforce victimless crimes. If one consenting adult buys an intoxicating substance from another consenting adult and uses it, nobody is going to run to the cops and say, “Save me! I’m wounded! I’m in danger!” If two people have sex and money changes hands, neither party is then going to run to the cops and ask them to intervene (unless they’re mortally stupid). Libertarians refer to these and many more as “victimless” crimes because there is no victim to press charges. Police have to hunt down all this hidden activity. If they’re racist, that’s a tool their brain is going to use to hunt it down, and when their employer sanctions and encourages violence in the enforcement of these laws, that violence is going to be applied in racist proportions.
For every victimless law and regulation I can get taken off the books, that’s one less opportunity for the police to interact with anybody, of any color, one less opportunity for racism to express itself, one less opportunity for the judgement call of the state enforcers to be applied in racist proportions. Every license that isn’t required, every fee and inspection that isn’t required, is a thousand fewer opportunities for white cops to arrest black civilians for noncompliance and nonpayment.
Racism is wrong. If I ever see or hear somebody speaking or behaving that way, I will call them on it. But I’ll be damned if I’ll sit on the sidelines and let the bureaucratic nightmare continue to swell and expand, and let the police state continue to get better armed and better defended in court, because some people want to pretend that racism is the only problem here. The less the government intrudes into our daily lives, the fewer opportunities there are for racists and bullies to use force against people they don’t like. The fewer opportunities there are for bigots to act against any marginalized population, whether race, religion, sexual and family preferences, or what fucking books they like to read. That’s a concrete outcome. It’s something I can help with.
Yes, I have a racial privilege to even begin to think I can approach a highway checkpoint and refuse a search, to even begin to think I can go into court (like I did) and challenge a traffic ticket, to stand on my front porch and refuse to let government officials into my home (did that too). So what? If I’m going to have privilege in an unequal, racist world, shouldn’t I try to do something positive with it?
Better than keeping my mouth shut, and better than being lost in a sea of identical voices.