I am not naïve, or at least I never thought I was. I am a progressive, and I have long been aware of the struggles of the black community, and the injustices over the centuries. (I have a particular fetish for all injustice. It pisses me off, even when I see it in a movie).
I just never had my eyes opened to this degree. Have things gotten worse lately, or has it always been this bad, and I am now waking up to something I thought I already knew?
In just this past week, I am reading about the killing with impunity of a black child; the handcuffing a man who was already shot and down; the negligent homicide by police of a man with a stroke who was tossed into a cell and ignored for 36 hours; the 10 year prison sentence for a woman who shot a ceiling in self-defense in the same jurisdiction and tried by the same DA who “tried” George Zimmerman (keep trying, asshole; maybe one day you’ll get it right); and the cruel physical abuse of Stephen Biko as he was transported mortally wounded in an ambulance (oh wait, that last one didn't happen here. Sorry.).
I live in NYC and I read the stop-and-frisk stats. I also have seen the stop-and-frisks in action, and have never been stopped. I am white. I have seen brown kids get dragged into a stop-and-frisk just because they stopped-and-watched, just like I did. I was never lied to by a cop and asked if I was carrying anything and that I should just take it out and show him so it “will be easier for me”.
And yet, still, I have never felt the way I did this week.
Let me say for the record that I am no bleeding heart liberal who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. So my lunch money and pencils were stolen by white kids in high school. I was mugged by a black guy once. An Asian guy wanted to kill me in a road rage incident where I live. I am an equal opportunity cynic, who does deep down feel that the human race can be ok with a lot less Randianism.
I don’t have white guilt. In fact, my wife and I were watching an episode of Seinfeld once, where, after unknowingly mistreating one black guy, all the white characters bend over backwards for the next black guy they see. I asked my wife WTF was that? To me it wasn’t funny and seemed awkward and weird. She told me, ‘oh that’s white guilt.’ (Larry David is a genius, to make us laugh at the cringeworthy).
In my late 30s, I had honestly never even heard of white guilt; let alone felt it. But I do have empathy. I feel. A lot.
(For the record, my wife is African American, and both she and her mom thought it was the height of stupidity for people to cheer O.J., though they certainly understood where it was coming from.)
But if I grew up living this, feeling this all the time, shit; I might’ve cheered O.J. too back in the 90’s.