by Barbara Joy Cooley
Systemic racism can be difficult to detect and destroy, because it is so insidious. People can say things without thinking, but they say them because the words seem to make them sound like caring, concerned folks. The words protect them from being seen as callous, compassionless people. Good people say these things, but if they think about the meaning of the words, and apply logic and common sense, they can see what is hiding underneath those words.
I was having a phone conversation with a friend along the lines of my commentary last week, “Work for white people,” when she said that she thought black people had some work to do, too, because “most black people who are killed are killed by other black people.” Bingo! There are some of those words covering up hidden, systemic racism.
Think about it. Most white people are killed by other white people because most people who are killed are killed by someone they know. Why apply this statement to just one group of people when it is true of every group? It makes no sense. It is not logical.
According to the Washington Post, in 2014, Rudolph Giuliani complained about the focus on black people being killed by police, saying that he found it “very disappointing that we are not discussing the fact that 93 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks.” Of course, most murder and homicide victims were killed by someone they knew! But the percentage of black people who are killed by police is much higher than the percent of black people in the population. Giuliani was trying to change the subject, to steer away from the disturbing truth, by saying words that he hoped would make him sound as if he were truly concerned about black lives.
Let’s get back to the real topic. Philip Bump at the Washington Post wrote, “Our database of police shootings indicates that there were 55 incidents in which police shot and killed unarmed individuals in 2019. Twenty-five were white and 14 black. As we’ve reported, that’s not representative of the population of the United States. Black Americans are more likely to be shot and killed by police when unarmed than are whites.”
That must change. I think it can and will change when white people stand up and demand that policies and procedures be changed. Choke holds should be an absolute last resort in restraining people. Unarmed people should not be shot by police. Community policing should be used everywhere, not just in some places. It is a strategy in which police work closely with citizens in the community to solve problems, allowing police to feel that people trust and support them, and allowing people to feel that police support and protect them.
But as things stand now, black men in this country cannot allow themselves to believe that all police will support and protect them, no matter who they are. That must change, and all people must work for that change.
So, white people, the next time you hear a white person change the subject to black-on-black crime, throw out that red herring and talk about changing the system so that black rights are supported as much as white rights, so that black mothers do not need to be fearful every time their sons go outside, so that black men do not have to be wary every time a police officer approaches, so that black shoppers do not feel that they are being watched and scrutinized more than white shoppers . . . the list goes on and on. You know what I’m talking about.
Let’s talk about it, and let’s change it.