There’s an episode of Chappelle’s Show that captures the problem with some folks right now. On the classic sketch comedy show, comedian Dave Chappelle played a juror in celebrity cases where he vehemently denied the celebrities’ involvement in crimes they committed.
One case includes R. Kelly ... I’ll assume you know what he’s accused of.
After Chappelle deflects numerous questions about Kelly’s alleged crimes, the prosecutor asks, “Besides the tape and the girl corroborating the allegations, what more would it take for you to believe [R. Kelly is] guilty?”
Chappelle then lists asinine requirements for the prosecutor to convince him beyond a reasonable doubt. Among the outlandish necessities: Kelly must hold two forms of ID with a police officer present; several of Chappelle’s friends needed to witness the crime, with one friend taking notes of the happenings; and R. Kelly’s grandmother has to identify him.
The prosecutor tells him that’s excessive, and Chappelle essentially says it’s not.
Now, that probably comes across as the joke it’s intended to be. However, many of your reactions when hearing the struggles Black and brown people face in this country resemble these same illogical requests. You are the problem if you require copious amounts of irrational evidence to see the obvious.
Yes, you — the person reading this who still believes systemic racism doesn’t exist.
Racism didn’t fade away in the 20th century. It’s scattered throughout society and continues to harm minorities in this country. No, this isn’t the post-racist society you believe exists following 44th President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
I could use an entire week to explain the ignorance of that sentiment, and it still wouldn’t suffice. Your friends and loved ones shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to illustrate for you or educate you on the struggles they face.
[pullquote-1] Explanation is only required because you might see yourself in those who commit these civil rights violations or racist crimes, rather than their victims. You could believe every person accused of racial discrimination only intended to do their job and made an honest mistake. Especially in recent cases involving police, maybe that’s why you require the rap sheet of the fallen: It confirms your assumptions.
“Oh, [insert one of a long list of murdered, unarmed people of color] stole Skittles in seventh grade? Now I understand why this happened.”
“Why didn’t s/he just follow the rules and cross the street when the signal allowed? I can’t really sympathize with them.”
Then, society is showered with the all-this-for-a-few-bad-apples spiel, as survivors and their families watch you miss the point of protests and the agony of the protesters.
Isn’t the cliché “One bad apple spoils the bunch?” So why are so many people still complacent while dozens skate by with the atrocities they’ve committed?
Look, I’m not here to dump on police, because cities underpay and overwork officers, and the good ones outnumber the bad. But how can we identify the bad when the good won’t speak up? Those who attempt to do their job properly can’t until rogue officers are out of the paint.
This isn’t a situation we can sweep under the rug with a series of quotes by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. I’ve noticed a flurry of King quotes on social media recently — mainly explaining how to protest properly.
To recite a line, which King often quoted, from a translation of Dante’s Inferno: “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
When you witness friends falling victim to discrimination — and in some unfortunate cases, death — why would you do nothing? That’s the real-world example of Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec misusing his swivel desk to avoid people, rather than rapidly helping those who need it.
What will it take to remove the blindfold to see this country has problems with Black and brown folks? Do you demand a ridiculous list of evidence? Or will you simply continue to look the other way?