“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
As people are watching all of the recent violence and witnessing the emotional outcry, you might be wondering what you can do or if you should do anything at all?
Well, let me first say that not only can you do something, you absolutely should do something. Albert Einstein said:
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.”
So, what do you do? That’s really up to you, but here are three things that you, respectfully, as a white person should definitely never do when events like this happen. Here are also some things you can do instead.
1) Do Not Villainize The Victims
Isn’t it already bad enough to have suffered police brutality? Is it necessary to suffer character assassination as well? This actually happens a lot. Those who are victims of violent acts committed by overzealous officers are then followed up by traditional news outlets with character assassination.
Oftentimes, even in their death, victims are painted as thugs, violent offenders, and even have their past criminal records brought up, no matter how old they are. Sounds crazy right? What bearing do past legal issues have on anyone being currently publicly executed?
Unfortunately, this cycle happens all the time. Some of the first images of Alton Sterling we witnessed following his brutal murder was of an old mugshot from several years ago. It was only through extensive protests that several news outlets changed their image of Sterling during their features.
What To Do Instead
Acknowledge the humanity of the victim. Whether the victim was a criminal or not, they were still the victim of a violent act committed by a person who was sworn to protect them. Identify the loss being suffered by the families of the victim.
Focus on the issue. Someone was brutally killed at the hands of an officer, and that is the issue. Not the victim’s past, but that their life was taken by an officer of the law. Nothing more.
2) Saying #AllLivesMatter As A Follow Up To #BlackLivesMatter
Imagine that you live in a nice neighborhood. One night, there is a house fire. The house on fire is your house. You panic and call the fire department. The fire department rushes out to your house, but instead of dousing the house that is on fire, they spray the entire neighborhood with water because all the houses matter.
Does that make sense? No, it doesn’t. No good fire department would ever do that, but instead would douse the home that was actually on fire, because in that moment that house needs it the most.
This example illustrates what it’s like when people follow up “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter.” It is ignoring the rallying cry for support and the distress call for help.
What To Do Instead
Understand what is being said when someone is saying “Black Lives Matter.” They are not negating the value of other’s lives, they are acknowledging that there are events and systems, and yes, even people who do not agree that black lives do indeed matter.
Be honest. If you don’t know what’s going on, say that. If you’re uncomfortable in posting “Black Lives Matter” then don’t. But do acknowledge the feelings of those who feel like others think their lives don’t matter. Let them know that their lives DO matter and that you think so.
3) Being Silent, Or Worse, Indifferent
Silence and indifference are luxuries that we can no longer afford at the cost of losing black lives. Complacency is the sin of the masses, the sin that watches people get murdered by those who were sworn to protect and to serve. Police brutality is real.
What To Do Instead
Say something. It is really uncomfortable to bring up or even take part in a conversation that deals with oppression, especially if you are in the lineage of the traditional oppressor. But this country has too long avoided the conversation with its forcibly adopted children that it must now reckon with.
Facts are that there is systematic oppression and imbedded hate that are woven into this country, and the benefits enjoyed by many in the land of the free were built upon the backs of the enslaved. No, talking won’t bring back Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, or any one of the hundreds of named and nameless slain by systematic oppression.
But dialogue will open the door to reconciliation and healing. It will create some understanding. It will show that you care.
This is a difficult and confusing time within our country, but, with open and honest dialogue, seeing each other’s humanity, and a good hard look in the mirror, as a nation we really can finally be united and overcome someday.
Here is a video from CNN showing the disturbing reality of racism in law enforcement: