I know that someday you'll find better things.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

If They Gunned Me Down

Rodney King.
Trayvon Martin.
Michael Brown.

These are only three of the notable racial conflicts that have occurred in my lifetime and my nation.

Tornado-ing around these tragedies is the term 'White Privilege'.

I don't understand it.
Much of it.
Any of it, actually.

I don't understand why our society continues to give so much power to skin pigmentation-- something not one person here on earth had the power to choose.

Not skin color, no more than ear-size or height or birth-name.

White privilege.
White privilege?

Perhaps my knowledge of this is limited because I'm not white-- I'm sort of a pinky-peach. Not translucent, contrary to a few sun-worshippers I know. Most of the people I know are not white, either, though there are are several shades of beige among them.

One of the most significant privileges bestowed upon me during my upbringing-- which is becoming more and more valuable with each emerging news report-- was in the form of rules, expectations, and traditional wisdom.

1. Nothing good happens after a certain hour at night or in certain areas of town. Nothing you want to be a part of, anyway. Have a plan, follow your plan, be mindful of your surroundings, and be polite.

2. Signal your intentions. Your clothing choices communicate your plans. Skin-color aside--no, skin-color obscured, as in not visible whatsoever-- I am more cautious and alert whenever someone is inappropriately dressed for the circumstances.

Person sprinting through the park in athletic apparel?  No problem.
Person sprinting through the park in a three-piece suit? Problem.

Back in the days of metal-detector morning duty while teaching eighth grade in Dallas, I saw what could be concealed in saggy pants and baggy hooded sweatshirts. Is it stereotypical to have an awareness of appearance, or is it a responsibility in self-protection? (PS-- have you ever seen this? This teen's pants are a veritable clown car of guns and weapons: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Epeo8Pfm1xM)

3. Watch your mouth. (And your posture, too.) Your words and gestures carry the power to influence how others perceive you. Speak respectfully. Behave honorably. If you consistently make the effort to make good choices, you'll avoid being the star of scandalous photos, videos, and recordings.

There's a trend on social media right now where people are posting contrasting pictures of themselves-- typically one casual photo (often involving rude gestures to the camera) and one formal photo (often involving an achievement accessory-- graduation cap and gown, diploma, sports trophy, or in a capacity of helpfulness with young children or the elderly) with a caption/hashtag of 'If they gunned me down'. 

Rhetorically, they ask:
Which photo would the media use if [they] were victims in a [supposedly] racially-motivated act of violence?

[You understand, of course, that I have to say supposedly,  because we weren't there, so we can't know.]

The attempt to illustrate a 'don't judge a book by its cover' message is weakened by the subject's flagrant flip-of-the-birds to the photographer and the vulgarity-laden tee-shirts bearing messages like 'What the F are you looking at?'

I can't participate in this compare-and-contrast internet-sensation activity, because there are no photos of me dressed provocatively or behaving disrespectfully. 

If they gunned me down, the media's photo choices would be both infinite and limited-- lots of photos of me exist, but I am usually dressed in unmemorable solid colors and doing something incredibly mundane. For this reason, even I have a hard time determining what year most of the photos were even taken.

I guess it's because I had the privilege of being raised to be mindful and responsible.

I'm still not sure how skin color factors into this, though. It seems pretty equal-opportunity to me.

If you missed out on this 'privilege', it's not too late for you. Follow the same wisdom that my village expected from me, and the odds of you getting tangled up in one of these tragedies will reduce significantly. You don't have to be white (or pinky-peach) to have the privilege of following a code of honorable living punctuated by common sense.

Compounding Tragedy

Exponential Tragedy

Exploitation of Tragedy
This doesn't feel like community and collaboration toward compassion, awareness, and growth. This doesn't feel like healing. This feels like ripping open the stitches of the wound and grinding in bitter germs of hate, vengeance, and fear. They call it viral, but I call it bacterial. It's an infection, all right. There's a cure, but it's not this.

Man, our media sure has an odd way of honoring the deceased.

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