Letter to White America

This should have been a place of worship.

This should have been a place of worship.

Dear White America

For better or for worse, your country is the leader of the Western world. That means you have to lead us. And to lead us it’d be really swell if you could be better than us. Be a demonstration to us of what a free, open, tolerant and functional society looks like.

It seems you’re having a tough time of it at the moment. Is there anything we can do to help? We’d love to help, however you need us. But you also have to look inwards and realise that a few things might need changing.

Here’s something about me. If I drive along the road and I see a police car drive behind me, my first instinct is nervousness – am I doing something wrong? Am I about to get in trouble?

And it’s occurred to me that I shouldn’t feel nervous when I see the police. I should feel safe and warm – secure in the knowledge that there is a state run operation designed solely to protect the good from the bad.

So if I – a middle class, white man, citizen of New Zealand – feel insecure when I have the police come up behind me, I can’t even begin to imagine how some of your citizens feel. How a Latino man or a Black man feels when the police approach him, knowing as they would, what’s gone on around your country.

Because there is example after example of police brutality. And not just Rodney King level beatings. We are talking about straight up killing.

Dontre Hamilton was a paranoid schizophrenic who was killed by the police. He was killed after the police responded to a call that he was disturbing the peace. The first officers on the scene determined he was doing nothing illegal. The second set determined otherwise. He was shot 14 times.

Eric Garner was put in a chokehold in New York. He was selling cigarettes illegally. You might remember the #ICantBreathe hashtag. That was because there was a video of Eric’s last moments, and his desperate cries for help because he couldn’t breathe. Because he was in a chokehold. By the police.

Michael Brown was another pretty well known example. He was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. He was unarmed.

Tamir Rice was 12 years old. He was holding a toy gun. Police mistook it for a real gun. He was gunned down.

Rumain Brisbon was shot and killed after police thought he was holding a gun. He was holding a pill bottle. These things do not look similar. No police were charged.

Walter Scott was shot in the back as he ran from a police officer. He was shot in the back. As he ran. The police officer claimed Scott had stolen his taser. Except there was video that showed Scott was running from the police officer. And hadn’t stolen his taser. Due to the video footage the police officer has been charged with murder.

Freddie Gray was another whose name has gained fame. He died of a spinal injury after being put in the back of a police van.

This is a truncated list of unarmed black men who were killed by police. Just in the last year.

And then in news that just makes me despair, a 21 year old white guy walked into a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, sat down for an hour, then got up and shot and killed 9 innocent people. His motivations, as he said to the congregation as he shot them, was that “I have to do it. You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go.”

Fox News, which is one of the most widely watched news channel in the United States brought on an “expert” who proclaimed that this crime was clearly a crime against Christianity because it had taken place in a church. The blackness of the congregation was incidental.

No. It was a hate crime. Committed by a racist. Who targeted blacks.

This sort of bullshit fucking commentary only serves to minimise the racist angle of this. It minimises the key part of why this happened. And when you minimise it you don’t confront it. You don’t talk about it. And White America you really need to fucking talk about this.

In fewer than three days after the shooting had occurred, the congregation was asked if they could “forgive” Dylann Roof. The alleged murderer. Can they forgive him?

When the Boston Bombings happened and three people were murdered by Chechen Muslim brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev no-one asked the people of Boston three days later if they “forgave” the Tsarnaev brothers. They certainly didn’t. Dzhokhar was sentenced to death for his part in the bombings.

Roof wasn’t even handcuffed when he was led away by police. In images that were shown all around the world. How do you think that makes a black person feel? Seeing a white guy, who’d been “cooperative” in talking with police about the gunning down of 9 black people, led away, not in cuffs. And yet Eric Garner was put in a chokehold and died for selling cigarettes.

It was assumed that when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, a new era of positive race relations would emerge. But it seems to have become worse. What’s up white people of America? What the fuck is going on?

When riots broke out in Baltimore because of the death of Freddie Gray, it was all but ignored that the rioting followed days of peaceful protest. And no fucking shit the people rioted. Because no-one seems to listen to peaceful protest these days. But then when rioting happens, it makes it easier to shake your head and dismiss “those people” for their violent ways.

I can’t even pretend to know what it’s like to be under-privileged. To be an ethnic minority in a seemingly hostile environment. Hell I can’t even begin to understand what it’s like to be a woman in New Zealand. I have been given every privilege under the sun. But holy shit I’m mad as hell. But if I don’t want to take it anymore I don’t know what to do.

So I guess this is me trying to say “hey, there’s a real problem here and white folk, we need to do something about it”. I think the first thing we should do is listen.

I made a terrible joke after the Ferguson Police were let off the shooting of Michael Brown. Someone said to me I should follow a number of black Americans on Twitter. It would challenge and confront me they said. But it would help me understand better. And I did just that. And I don’t understand better. But I see a different perspective to my own. And my bubble’s. And it helps.

I apologise for this stream of consciousness. I’m just sad.

Dave

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One Comment

  1. Ken Sparks says:

    Thanks for writing this Dave. I’m sad too but we have to keep asking these questions and insisting on better answers than the ones we’re getting from those who have the power to stop the injustices.

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