Dear White Friend,
This Thanksgiving, my country is telling me to be thankful that I’m white. Twenty-four hours ago, a white prosecutor took to a podium in a black city and made his message clear. A white prosecutor who is the son of a white police officer. A white prosecutor who, in his 24 years as the people of St. Louis County’s sworn enforcer of the law, has never recommended charges against a single police officer. So what does he have to tell us? The jury will not indict. In so many words, be thankful that you’re white.
On every channel and every newspaper above the fold, the headline is the same. Be thankful that you’re white. I’m supposed to sit down at the table across from my white grandparents and white parents, my white brothers and white sisters, my white friends and white neighbors, and breathe a collective sigh of relief, because the system is more fair to my race. “Justice was served” – now say it with a straight face.
When we look out the window and see kids playing with toy guns in the street, they all return when we call them in for dinner. When 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun in a park in Cleveland this past weekend, he was shot dead by cops from ten feet away. He was black.
When my brother walks down the stairs in his New York apartment building, imminent death never crosses his mind. When Akai Gurley, an unarmed city employee, father and musician, walked down the stairs of his apartment building in Brooklyn last week, he was killed when a rookie cop shot him in the head. The two men never even exchanged a word. He died instantly while his girlfriend stood next to him in shock. He was black.
When my friends sold leftover Adderral to other classmates in college (a felony), we all considered it sharing. When Eric Garner sold untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island this past summer (a misdemeanor), he was tackled and put into a chokehold by the NYPD while his hands were raised. His yells of “I can’t breathe” were muffled by a scrum of tackling officers and he was murdered within seconds. He was black. Another child’s last memory of their father will be a shaky YouTube video of him being murdered by law enforcement.
When I was a teenager and felt like I needed to escape, I would sneak out of the house and go on walks at night. I would wear a hoodie and listen to music on my cd player. When Trayvon Martin went out for a walk in his neighborhood at night armed with a bag of Skittles, he was murdered by a preying sociopathic vigilante who was ‘standing his ground.’ Trayvon was black.
In so many words, be thankful that you’re white.
Don’t you remember the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Giffords? Jared Loughner walked right up to her at a Tuscon supermarket parking lot and shot her in the head at point-blank range. He then shot and killed six bystanders. As a member of our legislature choked on her own blood, Loughner was arrested by the police. He was unharmed. He was white. Even our most violent criminals can be arrested without police violence.
Have you forgotten the 2012 rampage in the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado? James Eagen Holmes entered a showing of Batman and proceeding to fire a shotgun indiscriminately into a packed theater, killing twelve people. Several young men died cradling their girlfriends. Holmes, dressed in tactical gear, was apprehended without incident by police minutes later. He was white. Even our most violent criminals can be arrested without police violence.
You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve forgotten what it is I am supposed to be thankful for. Let’s try this again and maybe I’ll get it right.
Should I be thankful that I can openly carry a military-grade assault rifle in a public park, yet John Crawford III was shot and killed by police within seconds for holding a BB gun in a Walmart two months ago? He was black. And by the way, the BB gun was in the store because it was for sale.
Should I be thankful that no one in my family has ever even stepped foot in a prison, yet approximately 10% of young black men are behind bars?
Should I be thankful that my white LBGTQ friends aren’t senselessly arrested for ‘soliciting prostitution’ when they’re simply walking home from the bus?
Should I be thankful that if my house is broken into while I’m at home, I can call the police and they won’t assume I am the suspect? That they won’t ask for my papers and try to have me deported?
Should I be thankful that not one single judgement based on the color of my skin has made my life more difficult?
No. I should not.
A system facilitated all of this and it’s being sold to us under a brand name – Justice. This Thanksgiving, ask yourself if you’re buying it. Ask your families if they’re actually saying that they’re thankful that they’re white, and if they are, confront them.
IF BLACK LIVES ARE WORTH LESS, THIS SYSTEM IS WORTHLESS.
Thanks for reading,
Your White Friend