Talking Points: You bought the lie

So, just yesterday I was encouraging you to speak. I still want you to do that. But I thought it might be helpful to have some talking points: 


You bought the lie that extra force is necessary when dealing with blackness. That we are heartless, monstrous, beastly. You believe our bodies are to be feared. You believe that the police can't treat us the same way because we are far more resistant to authority, far more disrespectful. You believe that it is we who are solely responsible for the dangers officers face. You believe we bring it on ourselves because we couldn't possibly be innocent. For the rest of America we believe in innocence until proven guilty, but for us- there is no question of our criminality. 

You bought the lie that we are especially violent and that the violence is only getting worse. Since shootings are reported like baseball scores on the news, you believe the media's representation of us. You would never know that black-on-black crime has been in decline for the last 20 years. You would never know that many black people have never held a gun. You would never know that only 1% of black people commit a violent crime in any given year. You would never know that this generation of young people commit the least amount of crimes than any generation since the 60s  [1]

You bought the lie. You believe that black-on-black crime is somehow innately different from white-on-white crime. The latter is somehow normal, justifiable, uninteresting and therefore ignored. 86% of white homicide victims are killed by white perpetrators, and because whites make up the majority of the population, it is actually white people who commit the majority of crimes in America, including violent crimes. Whites led black 2-1 in aggravated assault arrests, forcible-rape cases, and larceny theft

You bought the lie that we don't care about our communities. But when was the last time you visited? Black people work tirelessly in their communities to close the gaps afforded to affluent communities. Our churches provide space for afterschool and summer programming. We have to create our own summer job programs and internships. We care deeply about crime and hold marches, prayer walks, protests, and vigils every summer. Our neighborhoods contain pastors, teachers, lawyers and church members who dedicate hours working with young people. We have to come up with our own innovative plans like mobile produce vans. We are independent businesses owners and our restaurants are amazing. Shootings do not define our neighborhoods. But you'd have to spend time there, instead of rolling up your windows and locking the doors as you drive by. 

You bought the lie that the police treat us all the same. We are 21 times more likely to be shot by police than our white counterparts. This would only be acceptable if you truly believe we are 21 times more violent than white people. Do you? If we look at the number of black people killed from 2010-2012, in order for whites to have an equal risk as black people, police would have had to kill a white person every week for those three years. While this is hugely disturbing, Black (and Hispanic) people must also live with racial profiling policies and stop and frisk policies. For real stories of the crimes white people commit and get away with as opposed to the black experience with police, check out #crimingwhilewhite and #alivewhileblack. Black people (and other people of color) have a fundamentally different experience with police because they are allowed to treat us as suspicious and potentially dangerous on sight. 

You bought the lie that disobeying the police ought to result in our death. Tamir Rice didn't obey police orders to drop the [toy] gun. Eric Garner was [possibly] selling lose cigarettes. Meanwhile, we have watched white people argue with police and the police are patient- annoyed, but patient. We watch white people point actual guns at them and the police respond by (at least trying) to de-escalating the situation, resulting in long stand-offs before decisions are made to use lethal force. We know that white people can shoot up public spaces, and be arrested alive. Would it be okay for your son, your daughter to be killed for disobeying the police? Would you just shake your head and quietly bury your child? Or would you be outraged? Would you expect greater restraint, better use of training? Would you say its your child's fault for being disobedient? Or is that a line of thought reserved only for black bodies? 

You bought the lie that our kids are far worse, far more violent, far more disrespectful. Today's young African Americans display the lowest rates of crime and serious risk of any generation that can be reliably assessed. Crimes committed by African-American youth have been on the decline for decades, most having been cut by more than 50%. FBI records indicate that black youth account for only 2% of the nations homicides. It is often the perception of disciplinarians and authority figures that over-estimate the age of our youth, and determine that greater force is necessary. We know most recently to be true in the case of Tamir Rice who was assumed to be "about 20". He was 12. And this is not uncommon according to The American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Psychology

You bought the lie that I am the exception. That I am not like "them". It has been pounded into you that the normal black experience is shaped by violence, steeped in brutality, and is inseparable from "thuggery". There is great danger in believing this single story of black America. There is great danger in assuming that anyone's story who falls outside of this narrative is somehow special, unusual, or amazing. The number of black experiences are as great as any other people group. We are not defined by a single story

You bought the lie that our crime is worse. Somehow the crimes of theft, prostitution, even gang banging are worse than other crimes. How is it that a man could be accused of selling loose cigarettes and lose his life? How could we possibly justify this? We distinguish "blue collar" crimes from white collar as if those who do white collar crimes at least get a gold star for receiving the best education before committing their crimes. White, educated men caused the great recession and that is acceptable, but selling loosies is just too much. Get him off the street. 

You bought the lie that our communities are the result of our own "bad decisions". But pick up these books Family Properties, American Apartheid, The Promised Land, or read this article and you will find a much more complex history of black communities that is inextricably linked to white America.   

These lies are all based on the belief that there is something inherently wrong with blackness- that we are especially violent, that our crimes are particularly brutal, that our kids are uniquely savage, that our neighborhoods are inherently bad because its residents are different from white people. If you hold any of these- any of these- even in the deepest recesses of your heart, it is a rejection of the Imago Dei in blackness. The logical conclusion is that only certain black lives matter, that only certain lives are worthy of dignity, of patience, of justice. These are the beliefs that drive excessive force, the beliefs that lead to 911 phone calls about how dangerous we are. These beliefs are leaving us dead on street corners, stairwells and playgrounds.

And they eat at your souls too. These lies make you less human- less loving, less caring, less merciful, less gracious, less understanding. The lies demand that you put up walls, move your home, keep your children separate, keep us at arms length. The lies demand your allegiance, demand your humanity. 

We are not inherently different from you. We are not inherently different from you. We are not inherently different from you. Our lives matter. #blacklivesmatter Until you uproot these lies, you will be ineffectual not only in racial justice but also racial reconciliation. 

Those of you who are breaking the silence, its time to uproot the lies. Its time to declare the human dignity of black life. Its time to identify and unlearn racism. When you speak- you do so with power. When you speak, you do so with conviction. When you speak, you do so believing that our lives are as worthy as yours to be lived.  

[1] Thanks to Katelin Hansen at BTSF blog for your consistent work, especially with this article that was incredibly helpful.