Wednesday, October 5, 2016

To the white male student at the race relations community meeting

Last night I went to a racial relations community meeting with an audience of professors, cops, counselors, students, across diverse backgrounds, different ethnicities, and upbringings. There was an unspoken understanding (so it seemed) that we were here to listen, talk, and plan to action how we can bridge the gap in race relations. Much of the conversation centered around police brutality because of the daily police shootings or assaults on black men in America. Eventually I left the meeting when a young, white male student continually drew attention to himself and took away the time and space for people of color in the room. He said that BLM (Black Lives Matter) and Feminism movements were hypocritical, said he was color blind, said he hated safe spaces, and said that there was not a race problem with police brutality. I was flabbergasted because I wondered what his intention was in being there for one. Two, I couldn't believe that he didn't recognize the disproportionate killings and incarceration of black men in America. Three, he said that BLM does not address black-on-black crime--which of course the research shows that there is predominantly intraracial crime (not interracial crime); but again, black men are disproportionately killed and incarcerated by white police officers in America. And don't we ever talk about white-on-white crime? Four, then the student said he disagreed with needing 'safe spaces', although he was clearly benefiting from it because every audience member and moderator was being respectful of his perspective--even going as far as fist-bumping him and saying that he did a good job speaking. Clearly, everyone that disagreed with him was being overly nice. Five, I had no idea people still labeled themselves as color blind, because THAT DOESN'T EXIST. When I look at you, I SEE your ethnicity, and that is NOT a bad thing. Because this student continued to interject and because there were cops (not in uniform) in the audience, the room felt like it was being policed. What was also unsettling, was that there was a shooting practice below the floor in the auditorium. And gun shots went off for an hour. I do not think the people shooting knew there was a meeting above them, but there was an unwelcoming vibration in the room because of the boy, the cops, the gun shots all while we were talking about police brutality.
As I stewed on the words of this student, who was obviously intelligent (but not understanding), I was mad at myself for not saying how I felt about his arguments; but I do not want to argue in front of a room of people, and I definitely did not want to stumble over my words because I was so frustrated. My biggest qualm was that he took away time from other speakers and students who had profound things to say. I enjoyed listening to the observations that others made except this particular student. From my perspective, white people have always had a platform for their ideas to be heard, and I was there as a white person to listen to people that wanted to talk about change.