In the face of recent events—most notably the Dallas riots and officer-involved shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota—social media is abuzz with vitriol and frustration that makes me consider for the umpteenth time what it’s like to be black in America.
The beauty of social media is that anyone who posts or tweets anything a lot of people agree with can quickly spread their message. The social media web creates a certain degree of validation (no matter the stance) if the issue strikes a chord.
I can’t know what it’s like to be black. I can sympathize with the issues of racism (no matter how subtle) but that doesn’t mean that I truly understand. Violence is always disheartening, yet when violence targets an individual or group because of a group identity it’s even more vicious and upsetting.
While recent events have highlighted issues like police brutality and racial bias, it isn’t fair to judge a group as a whole as you would judge a select member of its entirety. I’m perfectly willing to “check my privilege” in terms of constructive discussion and attempting to understand both sides of the issue, but what I won’t do is apologize for who I am.
Those on the left crying for people to “check their privilege” aren’t just asking people to step outside their own perspective, but rather to dehumanize themselves and believe that the only reason they have academic, financial, or social success is because of their so-called privilege. Being white is not a necessary prerequisite for success nor does it guarantee success. A simple look into the last census data proves as much. Further, as a white woman living in the South, I share even less of the institutionalized benefits associated with my race. For example, every graduate school or scholarship application I fill out I’m asked to disclose ethnic information. It isn’t so I can receive priority in scholarship and admittance considerations as a white American.
On the other side of the same coin, we need to be protecting our law enforcement officers. We need to teach everyone how to behave respectfully towards these individuals. Just as I don’t know what it’s like to be black in America, most of us do not know what it’s like to have a split-second to differentiate between a benevolent citizen and a violent perpetrator.
While we clearly have race-relations problems in our country, from the viewpoint of a millennial we are overcompensating for our historical wrongs. By accentuating our differences, we’re pulling ourselves farther apart. While we whine about “safe spaces” and microaggressions, there are people, in connection to their ethnicity, being disproportionately imprisoned and dying on our streets. We need to pick our battles, and, in my opinion, blocking bridges and looting businesses is not going to solve those problems.