“All Lives Matter, But That’s Not What We’re Talking About: The White Flight Away From Discomfort” By Carrick McDonald


Where do I even begin?

How about the 60’s, when racism ended once and for all? Never mind the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. or the fact that it took until 1997 for a majority of Americans to stop viewing interracial relationships unfavorably. Or, the stigmatization and misrepresentation of black youth in our media narratives, both fictional and in the news. And, need I mention the eight years of vocal disbelief that an educated black man who took the title of president could actually be from this country? I could go on. 

So I will. The church shooting in Charleston. The selective denial of loans from the Department of Agriculture to black farmers. The still lingering effects of Jim Crow laws. The overwhelming likelihood that a black student will be punished or expelled more frequently than a white student. The stigma against job applications with “black sounding names”. The implicit associations of being black with the criminality that leads to incidents like the bungling of convictions in the Central Park jogger rape case.The black man found hanging from a tree in Atlanta a day after rumored KKK presence. Here still, I could go on and on. 

People who are members of majority groups in America love to do this thing where they set up arbitrary finish lines for minority groups to cross and once the line is crossed, that’s it. The problem is over. Non-LGBT Americans decided it was when LGBT Americans were (finally) granted the right to marry who they wanted. And that was it. LGBT rights had been achieved, which is why idiots like Kim Davis intentionally dragged her feet trying to prevent that exact thing from happening. Or, why LGBT Mormons are experiencing a suicide crisis. Or, why Mike Huckabee is cutting an unexpected check to the band Survivor. Or, why…

Even more annoying is when majority members decide that minority groups can no longer critique the unfair treatment they still receive. That’s why all the people with nothing to say on your Facebook feed are talking about how racism would go away if we just ignored it. They (paradoxically) love to hold up MLK Jr. as a personal inspiration, ignoring the fact that he regularly broke the law, provoked the racists in institutions to violence in full view of the media, and regularly disrupted white days and white dollars, eventually being targeted by the FBI and ultimately murdered for his trouble. I can only assume this is because their one “black friend” got tired of hearing their crap and checked out long ago. The sanitized legacy they invent for King is their stand in. 

I struggle writing this because I don’t want to interrupt black voices in a conversation they have brought to international attention. Having said that, I can probably speak for a lot of my white friends when I say that we are sick of hearing this neutral crap pile of platitudes that only seems to come from comfortable white people and we are checking out now too. 

My frustration began as it usually does: a horde of people misinterpreting a common idea and deciding their brainless take on it is the only one. The fact that there are enough people who can’t hear the silent “also” on the end of the phrase “black lives matter” does not surprise me. The fact that there is a knee-jerk hashtag for the phrase “all lives matter” and it gets regurgitated when you get enough Caucasians together in the same room also does not shock me.

These are the same Mensa members who wonder why there isn’t a White Entertainment Television while tuning into CBS for The Big Bang Theory. These are the same people who want to celebrate Heterosexual Pride Day while going to pick up the divorce papers for their third marriage. They don’t get it. And all this amounts to a bunch of explicitly white noise. The people who peddle this drivel are the same ones who ask why the Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t focus on black-on-black crime, ignoring the overwhelming dominance of white people in the amount of violent crimes committed, as well as the statistics that point to the fact that whites overwhelmingly target other whites when it comes to picking victims. Why aren’t these concerned whites doing something about the prevalence of white-on-white crime?

It’s because they don’t actually care. They just get antsy when they aren’t the center of attention for thirty seconds out of their cushy white days. It’s a means of changing the subject, like asking why there are AIDS fundraisers when cancer still exists (something people also do). This is not to say, as many white folks do, that “white problems” are minimized or erased. There’s a whole movement dedicated to critiquing poor treatment of folks who identify as women (it’s called feminism, another poorly-understood and needlessly maligned school of thought). The ways that men are mistreated, both institutionally and culturally, are also covered by it. The treatment of the poor is noted and commented on from a multitude of angles. The piss poor way this country regards and deals with (or doesn’t deal with) the mentally ill is also passionately advocated against. It’s all connected.

But these issues rarely, if ever, rise out of a prejudice against whiteness. Trying to center ourselves as somehow equal victims or even worse off than black folks in the conversation about policing is a grotesque mockery of the real situation at hand. You would be hard pressed to find a cop in the country who would run my plates and see my Scottish name and be ready to loosen his holster if the shit starts to fly. No one is even making the suggestion that white people are not subject to police overreach. Compare the swift administrative response to the needless, reckless death of six-year-old Jeremy Mardis to our hand-wringing and excuse making over the increasing amount of dead black children.

Compare the administrative response to white crimes versus crimes committed by people of color in almost any given scenario. White folks consume marijuana at roughly the same rate as black Americans do but we are not being policed in the same way. The hashtag #crimingwhilewhite is a good repository of white people getting away with a whole assortment of ludicrous things. Our crimes are not treated the same at the judiciary level, which is why the Stanford rapist received leniency for being a basically stand-up guy except for his little rape boo boo. The same judge gave a much harsher sentence for the same crime to a Latino man. White people are not even reported on in the same way, which is why if you wanted to see the Stanford rapist’s mugshot, you had to look it up and share it yourself. 

What about black-on-black crime? Even within the black community, there is a constant discussion of violence and criminality. This information is easily accessible to even the whitest among us through this little known and little-accessed tool called Google. In fact, everything in this article is, at any time, at no cost, searchable. But that requires a leap of faith that the strongest “All Lives Matter” activists (ha!) are unwilling to make, which is to leave their myopic little echo chamber and condescend to listen to actual minority voices. And thanks to the democratization of information the internet allows, these opinions are really just a click away. Even driving to work on the weekends, I passed large groups holding fundraisers and drives to end community violence and promote local business and education. They weren’t holding these drives on my front porch so little old white me made sure to see it. They were taking place in areas that were directly affected. You can’t comment on the rest of the world while standing in your backyard.

But boy, I see a lot of people trying. So white friends, in these tense times, don’t clog up real conversations with meaningless tripe that’s supposed to make us feel better. In our unequally weighted society, we aren’t meant to be coddled all the time. It also makes our occasional cries for minorities “to suck it up” ring hollow when minorities constantly have to tiptoe around our dainty white feelings. A person can’t pull themselves up by the bootstraps if they get shot indiscriminately. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and with the assumption that minorities can’t reliably be trusted to self-report the conditions they live under, we run the risk of the whole house burning down. Just because we don’t see something, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

This article first appeared at Omnibus Journal, Jul. 09, 2016.

The views expressed in this post are of its author and do not necessarily represent those held by Heft.live.

Featured image via stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org

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