Is Assuming Racism Racist?
Is assuming racism racist? You read that right. We are in the middle of social storm where emotions are high and objectivity has been tossed out the window with common sense. In this storm I am proposing that assuming racism is half the problem in this country. The other half of the problem is actual racism. As we delve into this sensitive concept I am asking you to dig inside yourself, be honest, and realize how your own thoughts may be contributing to issues of racism.
The recent firestorm of protests and social unrest in the United States was started by a police brutality situation in which George Floyd was murdered by four police officers in Minneapolis. Derek Chauvin had a 19 year career as a police officer. Previous incidents would insinuate that Chauvin’s behavior was not toward the black community but, rather the community as a whole.
In 2013, 24 year old Kristofer Bergh filed a complaint stating that Chauvin drew his gun in response to a nerf gun incident (Hawkins, 2020). The result of Bergh’s complaint is unknown. However, Berg is white. Wayne Reyes pulled a shotgun on police and was shot and killed. Reyes ethnicity has not been determined although he does not appear to be black in his obituary photo. Ira Latrell Toles was shot by Chavin in 2008 during what Chauvin described as a struggle over the officer’s gun(Adams, 2020), Toles is black.
While there were many complaints against Derek Chauvin, Most of his behavior was consistent with police behavior across the country. It is reasonable to expect to get shot if you draw a gun on a law enforcement officer. That is a reasonable assumption. Any person who says they would not shoot someone for drawing a gun on them is either lying or completely out of their mind.
We have a cop, who it appears, was not discriminating in his aggressive behavior. He and four other officers of various races held George Floyd to the ground prohibiting his ability to breathe until he died. The outrage over the video of George Floyds death set off protests and riots almost immediately. Black Lives matter activists raced to Minneapolis to begin what would become one of the biggest protests in United States History. The call for “justice” was immediate and continued long after all the officers were arrested and charged.
In the name of social justice, David Dorn a Retired police officer was killed trying to protect a pawn shop from looters. Businesses owned by people of every racial background were looted, burned, and people were beaten. In Washington protesters came after Trump and made several attempts to light the white house on fire even though Trump immediately called for an FBI investigation into the Floyd’s death. While it is true racism exists in the United States, it is not as rampant as the media would have people believe.
After knowing what I know about Chauvin, I cannot say with any certainty that his actions toward George Floyd were racially motivated. Chauvin appears to have had issues of power tripping toward people in general. While it may not matter at this point if Chauvin is a racist, the fact remains that the situation itself has been portrayed as a racial issue. The media has pushed a Black Lives Matter narrative that functions on a single assumption that George Floyd was murdered because he was black. Do we know that to be true?
The assumption of racism only happens when a person themselves are racist. When you have a situation in which race was never brought up, and the actions of those involved are their normal behavior, that is not racism. Now we can assume Chauvin is a jerk by some of the complaints however, he appears to have been a jerk to everyone. Maybe, at some later date there will be someone who can attest to Chauvin’s racism through his remarks or profiling tendencies. Right now all we have are assumptions about Chauvin’s actions. As a society we have judged Derek Chauvin’s actions as racists. Why? Well Chauvin is white living in a city known to have a racist past. The truth is the assumption of racism was made purely on the fact that Chauvin is white and Floyd is black. This is an assumption that only someone with race issues would make.
I was standing in an airport line and something sort of hilarious happened, I turned to the couple that was behind me and made a comment. Neither of them responded and the woman gave me a look that said she was not going to. Now I could have taken that a lot of ways. One of the ways I could have taken it was that they did not like white people. I did not take it that way because, that is a judgment against their character that cannot be determined by one interaction.
When we assume racism it is our own fault. Think about it, you are putting a negative judgement on a person by what color they are, that is the definition of bias. If we are to fix the issues within this country we not only have to let go of racists attitudes, we have to go higher in thought than that and stop assuming racism. It was the assumption of racism that started the protests, not the proof of racism. The reality is that people want to believe white people are racist. Assuming someone is racist gives a person a mental high ground of superiority however; it doesn’t mean it’s true.
As human beings we need to admit that we have zero insight into what it is like to be anyone other than ourselves. I cannot tell you what it is like to be anyone but me. While we can sympathize with others pain and grievances, we are not able to feel them in the same way they do, it simply is not possible. If I cannot tell you what it is like to be black then certainly a black person cannot tell me what it is like to be white. People need to stop pretending they know what it is like to be someone of another race. To appreciate and respect each other is the best we can do.
We are over three weeks into the protest. I still have not heard one person say George Floyd deserved his fate even after his criminal record surfaced. No person white or otherwise who has agreed with the behavior of these cops. Today someone on my Facebook feed posted up a video from 1976 of white children bullying a black girl on a bike. Our society is so bent on continuing racism that we will both assume it and keep it going by any means necessary. In the United States if there isn’t a war to fight we will fight against ourselves.
I tend to believe most people are just trying to live their lives. Most people, regardless of race, are trying to get to a comfort level in the world; we are trying to be better people, trying to raise kids, trying to make it through the day. Maybe if we stop passing judgement without proof, we can get through life without the hate, the violence, and the destruction. Loving others doesn’t cost us anything. Maybe instead of looking for and assuming racism, we should look for ways to love those who are different from ourselves. Life is too short and too precious to push the ideas we have seen the last few weeks. To rise we need to stop assuming and be the change. To rise we need to bond together and love each other a little more.
Adams, Biba. (2020). Minneapolis man says cop who killed George Floyd shot him in 2008. https://thegrio.com/2020/05/29/minneapolis-man-cop-george-floyd-2008/
Hawkins, D . (2020). Officer charged in George Floyd’s death used fatal force before and had history of complaints.https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/29/officer-charged-george-floyds-death-used-fatal-force-before-had-history-complaints/
© 2020 MD Jackson MSIOP