Hello dear reader(s)!
Here in the good ol’ US of A where we have always had such a stellar record of dealing with issues of race relations (which I still don’t understand why a 5K and a marathon can’t all just get along)(hooray for recycled jokes!), today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Or for most people, “nobody gets today off of work unless they are a banker, postal employee, or government employee” day, and a really half-assed attempt at honoring one of the real heroes in this nation’s history.
And despite the attempts at rolling back everything the man fought so hard for, and gave his life for…there can be no doubt that his legacy remains. It is a legacy of unfinished struggle for people to be judged on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. Unfortunately, many people not only see that work as having been finished and are therefore unable to see why things are still so unequal, but they even think it went too far. People like Supreme Court inJustice Scalia. People like Donald Trump. You know…assholes.
Guess what everyone, black lives DO matter. And you can say that all lives matter and not be incorrect, but all lives are not the ones who lack the benefit of the doubt. It is black lives. And women’s lives. And many other minority lives. But black people are getting killed a lot, for things that white people get away with all of the time. The single best example would be Tamir Rice. 12 year old boy, in an OPEN CARRY STATE, with a BB gun. Shot basically on site. If things were equal, then every dumb-ass white “militia” man with an AR-15 in open carry states, or the ones that took over a visitor center in Oregon (a highly protected, strategic target that shows the bravery of these true patriots)(that was sarcasm, learn it, use it, know it, love it) would be lying in a pool of their own blood. But that’s not how it works.
It is very real, it exists. And you know what? It should.
Privilege should exist. Because what more is privilege than getting the benefit of the doubt? Than people making sure that you are up to no good, before deciding that you are dangerous? Before thinking you were just speeding, rather than automatically assuming because of the car you are driving that you must be running drugs? Than assuming with your education, experience, or just seeming willingness to work hard and smart that you will be a good candidate until proven otherwise. It is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It is the ability to pursue life, liberty, and happiness without being stopped and frisked because you fit a “profile”. And it is privilege that should be available to all.
So take my damn privilege, please! Because this isn’t a zero-sum game. And for many it isn’t a game at all, it is their life. You getting the benefit of the doubt in things will not stop me from getting the benefit of the doubt in things. It is that simple. My privilege is simply the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone has that. As a heterosexual male of European heritage, I am pretty lucky in that respect. But it is really pathetic that one has to be lucky to enjoy the rights and privileges that should and could be afforded to us all.
If you ask me, there are a few things that need to happen. And so what if you didn’t ask me, this is my post.
- We need to stop thinking in terms of race. We are one race, humans. This has to happen on all sides. Until we can stop the categorization of ourselves, there will be opportunities in our minds to judge each other differently.
- We need to understand the real history of this nation, what it was built on, and the opportunities denied to many of our fellow citizens for so long. We need to understand that the denial of those opportunities will not end the damage done for a long time. We need to be okay with the extra efforts to lift our fellow people up from the destruction that it caused. Scars can remain, and when you are born only a generation or two removed from people who were not allowed a voice, a vote, an education, or a decent job…you are going to face more challenges than someone who was not. We need to help our fellow people face less challenges.
- We need to be more of a melting pot. Appropriating the best parts of each culture is what we do that makes us great. It shouldn’t be an issue. The more we separate us, the easier it is for those who wish to keep us down to do so.
- We need to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone is a good person. In fact, many, many people are assholes. But if you think that skin color is an indicator of how much of an asshole someone can be, you have never set foot in a trailer park, and you’ve never seen the stung-out drunks throwing glass bottles at the windows of passing cars as they stand in the middle of Virginia street in Reno, Nevada. If you’re going to stay on the same side of the street as someone with lighter skin, you can do it when you see someone with darker skin. Give them the benefit of the doubt. And if you feel you need to heighten your state of alertness, know that skin color is one of the worst indicators of that there is.
- We need to keep trying. With the struggles people face, I understand how easy it is to give up. To just think there is no way to win and just assume you will never make it. But we can’t give up. On ourselves, on our communities, and on each other.
There is much more we can do, but if we apply these 5 steps to all people, I think we’d go a lot further toward achieving the kind of society we as humans deserve.
Featured Image by Colors by Emijrp (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons