People have asked me why I have yet to comment on the ongoing events in Baltimore, MD. My assumption is that these people are referring to my fairly well-documented resentment for (local) law enforcement following several incidents of mistreatment.
Skin colour notwithstanding, I have indeed been targeted, marginalised, and abused by those whose wages, comprised in no small part of my own tax dollars, are paid in return for a sworn oath to “protect and serve.”
The fact of the matter is this: I have exactly zero bullet wounds; although I am deathly terrified of aggressive dogs, those responsible were not let out of the patrol car; although I rarely venture out unarmed, nobody would assume this based on my appearance alone.
I have never been pulled over whilst driving an expensive luxury car, despite the fact I could never afford it myself. I’ve never been followed around whilst shopping – no matter what for; I’ve never been stopped for an unconstitutional random search of my person or vehicle (or both).
Indeed, I’ve been the victim of such a “guilty until possibly proven innocent, if we care enough” mindset only once, two years ago. An incident which scarred me for life, to be sure, but what else are the pigs – a term reserved for those whose power goes straight to their heads – meant to do on a Sunday afternoon, in a town that’s 98,6% white, besides confront, intimidate, belittle, ridicule, and abuse a young male committing the grievous offense of wearing a black hoodie and sunglasses in the middle of January, with the sun at its brightest and a temperature of 15F (about -9C), walking around the neighborhood – in which he’d lived for fifteen years – as he had been thrice-daily for the previous three months?
It ought to be fairly obvious, at this point, why I have yet to make any sort of comment on Baltimore, Freddie Gray, riots, or systemic black oppression.
If not, I shall attempt to elucidate further yet…
I am what people generally consider to be “white.” This is an ethnic term, a form of identification rather than identity. I identify as queer, non-binary, disabled, and neuro-atypical (among other things), but I don’t like the term “white.” I am indeed quite pale. I am of primarily Saxon descent (Niedersachsen – Oldenburg, Kirschhatten, to be specific), with a bit of Irish as well.
You’ll find this holds true for a surprising percentage of the population of my home state of Pennsylvania, as well as a large amount of my ancestors’ home state of Wisconsin.
Being primarily of German descent, there is a multitude of words and phrases I should (and most certainly do) avoid using in any context. If my Israeli friends want to crack Jew jokes, go ahead (I guess? they’re not terribly funny), but I’d never dare to repeat them. It’s the same fundamental concept.
This is why I have yet to comment on Baltimore – in any context. For one thing, I do not feel it is my place. Additionally, I feel as though the reason people have asked me for commentary and/or opinions is based exclusively on the fact I was abused by my local law enforcement agency two years ago (and by another last year, although I do not ever wish to discuss that in any public forum).
Just so we’re clear, these are perfectly legitimate reasons for me to be upset, but they do not qualify me to speak out against the pervasive, racially-charged, systematic police brutality plaguing this country and its inhabitants. That is why I haven’t said anything until right now.
Not because I’m “white,” but rather because my experiences simply do not (and, in many ways, cannot) afford me the same level of insight regarding the struggles of my more melanin-rich fellow human beings.
I will leave it up to you, the reader, to judge whether my experiences would be different should I have resided in an area with a significantly higher minority population.
Your answer ultimately reflects the gravity of the situation and the extent of the cultural and societal gap we must bridge in order to progress as a Nation and indeed as a species.
-JFB 28 April 2015