Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted about watching the news while sitting at the car dealership, waiting for an oil change. She said that there were two other people in waiting area with her, a woman with her teenage daughter. In the middle of all the news coverage, the teenager looked at her mother and said "you know, if this were about 20,000 black men at a concert, no one would care." The woman who wrote the post went on to describe how she was outraged and angered by the teenager's comment and implied that her mother should teach her daughter to keep such comments to herself. The woman said that this (in regards to the Las Vegas Mass shooting) was a heart issue, not a race issue. The first responder to this comment whole heartedly agreed, stating that she was so tired of 'them playing the race card.' Another commenter asked if the teenager was white. The woman responded the teenager was 'mixed something' but she hadn't really looked at the young girl.
I read through the whole thing and felt ill. I don't really know this woman. We knew each other in high school, but that's about it. I started to write a comment, but in the end I just hid the posting from my news feed. I didn't see the point of trying to explain to her how her Facebook posting was an excellent example of white privilege. Sure, the Las Vegas shooting is not about race (necessarily) but that teenager brings up a really good point on how this society talks about violence and race and how these issues are portrayed in the media. Elizabeth Smart, a fourteen year old white girl, was abducted in 2002. Her story made national headlines. That same year, Alexis Patterson, a seven year old black girl from Milwaukee, was abducted while walking to school. Her story was a blip in the news. We've seen police video after police video aired on the nightly news of officers shooting unarmed black men, but in 2012 we all watched as James Holmes was taken alive after opening fire in a movie theater. There is a habit of referring to a white person who opens fire on other civilians as a mass shooter, while a person of darker skin would be called a terrorist.
All this young person has ever seen and heard is the disparate way in which race is discussed in this country, where the president will not condemn neo-nazi's but will call peaceful protestors 'sons of bitches.' She sees a country who does not care about black people. We have showed her that this is a country that does not care about black people. Yes. I say 'we'. Because we all play a roll in this. Instead of being outraged that this young girl doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut (or keep her place, is also how I interpreted that comment), why not ask what would prompt her to say that? And then listen, really listen, to her answer. Or maybe instead of biting your tongue, you could have said "I would care. This is a horrific and senseless act of violence that no one should ever have to experience no matter what." This woman missed an opportunity show empathy and start an important conversation that could have led to understanding on both sides.
Instead she chose to 'bite her tongue' and spew her anger out on social media. And why shouldn't she? I mean, our (not mine) President of the United States engages in this behavior every day. He sets the example. It's just that some people haven't thought about how maybe this is not the example we want set. Maybe we're better than that. Maybe that's all I'm asking of that woman because I want to believe she's better than that. I want this country to be better than that.