On August 12, 2012, almost two years to the day that Mike Brown would be murdered in the streets of Ferguson, Bobby Moore, an unarmed fifteen year old boy, was shot and killed by Police Officer Josh Hastings in Little Rock, Arkansas. Despite the fact that Hastings had a history of discipline problems, was known to have attended a KKK rally, and had clear discrepancies in his telling of the incident, he was only charged with manslaughter, and after a hung jury and a mistrial, Hastings won’t even be held accountable for that.
In July of 2013, almost a year prior to Mike Brown’s death, Deon Williams fled from Little Rock police and was shot and killed on the corner of 12th and Jefferson, a predominately African-American neighborhood. Soon after, large crowds gathered to protest the killing, and many carried signs that read “Justice for Bobby Moore.” Williams’ wife was there, and through her sobs, she said,”Trayvon wasn’t enough? You didn’t have to fucking kill him. You didn’t have to kill him. You didn’t have to fucking kill him. Fucking pigs. Motherfucking pigs. Just because we’re in the ghetto?”
On September 24, 2014, a little over a month after the death of Mike Brown, the City of Little Rock opened a new multi-million dollar police station about six blocks away from where Deon Williams was killed.
If you’re white, it’s easy, I think, to be mad about what happened to Bobby Moore and Mike Brown. It’s easy to vilify people like Josh Hastings and Darren Wilson; they feel separate, their cases rare, outrageous, disappointing. Somehow Josh Hastings and Darren Wilson don’t represent you. You know better. After all, it was only last week when it seemed like everyone was celebrating how Toni Morrison had “schooled” Stephen Colbert by telling him that “race is a social construct.”
In the teargas haze of Ferguson, though, dismissing race as little more than a social construct seems, at best, useless. It’s not that race isn’t a social construct. Of course it is, in the same way that laws are social constructs, and language, and gender, and this website, and society as a whole. But identifying race as a social construct does little more than pander to White America’s need to feel that we live in a post-racial society, to alleviate them of their White Guilt, to make them feel that they understand and transcend race. They’re one of the good ones.
You’re not one of the good ones. There are no good ones.
That is to say: you are born into privilege, and, whether you like or not, you possess this privilege. It’s the same privilege that keeps Darren Wilson from standing trial and that lets Josh Hastings go free; it’s the same privilege that was denied to Bobby Moore and Mike Brown, and it’s the same privilege denied to all people of color.
That probably sounds unnecessarily harsh and simple, and if you’re white, you might even bristle at this. But you’ll get over it. That’s your privilege. You might be mad about Mike Brown. You might’ve been mad about Bobby Moore. You might’ve been mad about Trayvon Martin.
But where will you be tomorrow, White America? Next year? When will another child be killed in the streets? When will this end?
I don’t know, and to be honest, I can’t give you any simple, easy solutions. There aren’t any. But accept, at least, that you are privileged. Take that privilege, White America, and humble yourself. Amplify the voices of the oppressed. Listen to the experiences of people of color. Make yourself angry and uncomfortable, because whatever discomfort you might feel, it’s infinitely better than the injustice people of color have had to endure for so long.