Are you a white person about to comment on police violence? Read this first
White people, we need to talk
So you’ve heard about a Black person who was killed by police. Maybe it’s Terrence Crutcher. Maybe it’s Keith Lamont Scott. Maybe it’s a brand new Black person who was shot by police because this shit never ends.
Now you’re thinking about engaging in a dialogue about the event on social media. This is fine! Healthy dialogue is important and can be a solid first step in addressing a problem.
But wait, are you about to say some version of any of these comments?
“If you just comply, you won’t get hurt.”
“Why are they destroying their own communities?”
“I’m sure there are two sides to this.”
“What about Black on Black crime?”
If so, I’m glad I caught you when I did.
Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Did anyone ask you?
This is an important one to keep in mind because a lot of times we have an opinion, but it turns out that nobody asked us. In my estimation, nine times out of ten, nobody asked you.
2. Does anyone care about your opinion?
Ask yourself: How involved are you with this issue? Is it an issue you’ve been reading about, thinking about, organizing around, and researching? Or are you just wading into a pre-existing dialogue to shout your opinion at people who have already been living with the terror of violence at the hands of the state for ages? If your answer is the latter, keep in mind that people probably don’t care about your opinion.
3. Is your comment actually helpful?
This is a tricky one. Maybe you think pushing back against a narrative is always inherently a useful thing to do. Maybe you think playing Devil’s advocate means you’re a thoughtful, clever person. But if the people you’re about to address are understandably hurting because they have to live with the terror of seeing their sons, daughters, moms and dads killed on an endless loop, stop and ask if this comment is one that takes that into account. Sometimes we think a comment we’re about to make is useful in helping people understand a particular issue. We like to think this because it makes us feel like we know what we’re talking about. But white people, when it comes to race issues, sometimes you don’t actually know what you’re talking about, you just think you do. So be sure to keep this in mind when commenting.
4. Could you just say nothing?
Sometimes people don’t even realize that they have the option of saying nothing. But you can say always say nothing. It’s always okay to have opinions about things that you don’t share on social media, but this is especially true when it comes to expressing shitty, unhelpful opinions about race and police violence. So once you’ve gone through this list, it may turn out that this particular opinion isn’t even one people needed to hear in the first place.