Last week, events in Baltimore brought new energy to a national conversation that has been ongoing for months. As a matter of fact, just days ago I was meeting with a pastor at a local Panera Bread, and as our meeting wrapped up I joined in on such a conversation concerning the violent events and protests in the city of Baltimore. The reactions were vast from this group of white males. Some asked: “Why would people destroy property; injure others, or react so harshly?” Others wondered about the practice of injustice and abuses of authority among those who serve and protect. Still others said they believe the system works for everybody.
I watched emotions rise as each sought to defend his own position. After the group dismissed I got the attention of one of the men and we began to debrief from the discussion. I asked him, “How do you think white Americans would respond if the incidents around the nation were reversed? If the events that took place were perpetrated by African-American police officers upon white children, youth, young adults, and older adults?” His answer was insightful.
He stated, “Your question is not plausible. This could never happen in America. As a matter of fact, we do not have any historical evidence or examples of white people being suppressed or oppressed by any group in this country, besides ourselves. In order for this to truly occur, black people would have to be at the very core of power and authority in this country and that will not happen any time soon, if ever. I’m not trying to be a bigot here, just stating the facts. You see who runs Wall Street, Congress, Senate, the Legislative Branch, the mainstream media, and corporate America, and we are the majority population. So your question is not plausible because white America does not allow it to be possible.”
I responded by asking him if the white Americans he knows are legitimately engaging conversation, criticism and narratives pertaining to the past and current events relating to white police officers and black victims.
He responded, “Listen, white America feels better talking or writing about these issues. It keeps us from having to actually change anything.”
My response? “Hmmmm.”