Since the recent lack of indictments over Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the massive fallouts that have resulted, I have seen some rather unfortunate memes going around Facebook. What makes them so unfortunate is that when it comes to issues of race, too many Americans just don't get it.
The memes all go along the same lines. They center around an unarmed white victim who was shot to death by either by a police officer of unspecified race, a black police officer, or sometimes just a black civilian. Occasionally it is just a meme, but often there is a link through to some right-wing website that makes Fox News look like The Nation.
There will be a story about some white person who was unquestionably innocent. The article contains no information about whether or not the victim had a criminal background. He or she died a horrible death by shooting. The story ends there. It is sad and tragic for anyone to be shot to death, but if you're asking about why there is no outrage, I think the news sources (and the people who post them) need to be accountable for the following questions:
If the shooter was a police officer, was the officer reprimanded? Did he keep his job, or was he suspended? If he was suspended, was he suspended with pay? Is he still working on the police force today?
If the shooter was a civilian, was he arrested and brought to justice?
Was there a great outpouring of support for the shooter? Did hundreds of people send him money for his legal defense fund?
Did the major news outlets give plenty of air and print time to supposed acquaintances of the victim, reminding the public over and over again why the victim deserved to be brutalized by police because he didn't have the cleanest record?
If you can't understand why the answers to the questions matter, then you shouldn't be asking, "Where's the outrage?"
I don't want to hear you cry, "Reverse racism!" There is no such thing as reverse racism. So many of us have a very poor understanding of what racism is. Racism is not just saying, "I hate people of another race." A professor I had in college once defined racism this way: Racisim = Prejudice + Power. Racism isn't just prejudice. Racism is a deeply institutionalized system that is ingrained into our culture. Racism is the way our society uses prejudice to to marginalize its citizens in ways we're not always aware of.
“The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.” - Hank Aaron
What is racism? Racism is that funny feeling white people have walking through black neighborhoods. Racism is the lack of diversity in most popular culture outlets unless it's entertainment specifically aimed at black people. Racism is the dog whistles media personalities use to demonize poor people such as "ghetto", "inner city", and "welfare queen". Racism is black people consistently receiving far harsher punishments for the same crimes white people receive from our justice system. Racism is police killing 21 times more black suspects than white suspects. Racism is the divide we feel between blacks and white every day in the subtlest of ways. For example, at my previous job, one of my best friends in the office was black man, but he and I almost never socialized outside the office other than going out to lunch during work hours. Racism is moving your purse away when a black person is close to you. Racism is the complete lack of respect President Obama receives from Americans and from the media - respect that is due the office of the President of the United States. Racism is the president receiving more death threats daily than any other president in history.*
Racism is people posting these "Where's the outrage?" memes on Facebook in the first place. Racism is me having to explain it because you don't understand why it's wrong.
So stop asking me why I'm not outraged if I find out someone white was killed and that I hate white people because of it. Of course I am bothered when an innocent person dies for no reason (one of the main reasons I oppose the death penalty). When I hear stories of trigger-happy police killing the wrong suspect I am deeply disturbed about the brutal police state that this country is turning into. I am equally disturbed at how our militarized police force is threatening to mow down protestors. I can be saddened and outraged at the crime, but unless I know that justice wasn't served, I will not feel the same kind of anger that I would feel when a shooter walked away blameless with a million dollars in donations and interview payments in his pocket.
I am sickened by my country, my fellow Americans, and the world I live in. This is not how any of us should live. This is not the society I want to be living in. I'm tired of this racist world. I'm tired of racists and homophobes being turned into folk heroes. I find it funny that there is a segment of the population always crying that we need to "protect life" but that life doesn't extend to unarmed teenagers who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. When will this country ever heal this divide?
*No, he's not such a terrible president that he somehow "deserves" it. Brush up on your history and you will find this country has had far worse than Obama. In any case, no one "deserves" death over being a politician whose policy you disagree with.