Column is out of touch with reality that protests are responding to

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorPost staff reporter Kevin Webb submitted this as an op-ed. A reduced version appears in the Dec. 13 edition. It represents his opinion, not Hersam Acorn Newsapers’.

Last week, this paper ran a column that was misinformed, foolish and insulting to me. Greenwich Voices is the wrong platform for discussing race, given the demographics of its writers, so when you ask me to “pitch in,” I ask you to take a step back.

Step back and think, before quoting Rudy Guliani, the same man who claimed that murder among whites was “nonexistent” while claiming that black on black violence necessitates police brutality in the same breath. Step back and think, with the literal dozens of mass murders committed by white men in recent years, is mass murder a social disorder brought about by whiteness?

If this cannot be considered, then why would you attempt to place the same onus on black people?

It comes down to a basic double standard. As a black man in America, and in Greenwich, I’m supposed to understand and accept that my face reflects the prevailing image of violent crime and aggression in our culture. A black president hasn’t changed that.

I’m told to stop complaining and “pitch in” to change that perception, without attacking a system that constantly works to reinforce it.

To suggest that there are not persistent forms of systematic oppression in this country is foolish. “The Man” are the people I meet who use coded language to veil their racism and fear of “the element” as they gentrify Brooklyn, or condemn this town’s attempts at growth. “The Man” allows Eric Garner and Oscar Grant to be choked and shot on camera while leaving their families with no true recourse. “The Man” creates policies like stop and frisk, which authorizes and promotes racial profiling against people of color regardless of what they are doing in their daily lives.

The result is a group of people who grow up not trusting police, a group of people who are left to internalize the assumptions that the greater culture place on them. They are told that their wounds are self-inflicted and that in order to change them they must participate in a system that spent generations trying to justify and legalize subhuman treatment. What you see in the protests in Ferguson, New York and at Greenwich High School is the result of that system failing them once again.

This isn’t about giving lawbreakers the benefit of the doubt. What is important to me, is that the people who are responsible for the abuse and death of black people, be it mistaken, intentional or justifiable, are held to the same standards and that the law protects the lives of minorities to the same extent that it does whites. Police should not be immune to the justice system on the basis of their position. Why should Peter Liang continue to walk free after his own commissioner confirms that he took the life of an innocent man, Akai Gurley?

It is important to me that the presence of blackness does not suggest inherit danger or aggression. If a man can shoot more than 70 people and be arrested without being injured, shot or killed, I expect the same treatment of an unarmed man. Instead, I see a 12-year-old boy with a toy gun shot dead within seconds of police arriving on the scene, on the same day that the Ferguson decision was announced. That cop was black and that life was no less valuable.

But this is also not about vilifying the police, or the legal system. I’m happy to work with the police in the capacity that I do, and the officers of the Greenwich Police Department have done a tremendous job changing my own perceptions and fears in dealing with the police. But as our finest, I expect more from police, and as they wield their authority, I expect them to carry their accountability with the same weight.

Don’t ask people of color to hold their frustration with a legal system that constantly works to compartmentalize race and socioeconomic circumstance in a way that refuses to recognize the realities of being black, Asian, Latino or any other race besides white in America. Equality is not homogeny, and as statistics continue to show, minorities and women consistently struggle to make use of a system that was built to service and prioritize white men. Opening up the doors doesn’t guarantee a seat, so to speak, and time and time again black people are reminded of this.

Racism isn’t the same as it was 40 years ago, but it certainly isn’t gone. If you can’t recognize that, you have no business asking me or anyone else to pitch in. With that said, I ask those who aren’t ready to talk about race to take a step back and let me and the other people who live the racial struggle of America everyday continue the strides we’ve made since birth.

For those who are ready, look to the young leaders at Greenwich High School, look to your neighbors, look inwards and try to participate in the conversation, not dominate it.

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress