There is nothing peaceful and loving about white apathy
PQ: “I don’t know where white people get the audacity to tell people of color how to grieve—where they get the boldness to determine how someone emotionally moves through a system they have never experienced and often never have tried to help fix.”
This week I read a piece from a peer that upset me, even though it merely echoed the sentiments coming from many white people right now. There is a pattern, well-woven into our social fabric, that every time a person of color is killed at the hands of police, many white people quickly come to defend the police officer and vilify the victim—all whilst asking others to “spread love.”
The frustration I feel at sentiments like these can only pale in comparison to the frustration people of color must feel; at the moment when allies are needed most, they are instead met with the heavy condescension of white people asking for love, peace and respect while their loved ones or community members have just been murdered.
I will say this now, in case it wasn’t already blatantly obvious: if you value a murdering cop’s reputation more than a black person’s life, then just acknowledge you’re racist and go. Honestly, at this point, if you’re still defending a system that has killed at least two innocent people this week, you need to ask yourself where the peace is in this system, where the love is in your heart for these victims, and where the respect for their families is as you defend the person who took someone they loved away.
Before full coverage of Daunte Wright’s murder could even be given, 13-year-old Adam Toledo was killed. In Wright’s case, a 26-year-veteran of the force somehow ‘confused’ a taser and a gun, and in Toledo’s case, he was shot with his hands up and later lied about by police, who said he was armed.
If you’re defending the cops who killed these individuals, there are no hidden meanings veiled behind ‘love and kindness’ that will shield how little you clearly care for people who don’t look like you.
There have only been three days in 2021 where police have not killed someone. Police officers aren’t meant to be judge, jury, and executioner, and if you think they should, it’s likely because you know the system is tipped in your favor; you support a racist system because it serves to benefit you.
And let’s take a moment to talk about what the defense of police officers and the system of policing looks like: warnings about what a world without police would look like, false equivalencies, and reminders of how much the cop and their family must be hurting.
Asking for others to remain peaceful and respect cops because “they are the single reason we live in a civilized society,” is a painful reminder that you think it is civilized the number of people of color being shot. Where is the peace in a world where we send a message that police officers can kill without consequence?
A favorite comparison these days is between police and doctors: how doctors kill thousands of people each year and they don’t get their ‘mistakes’ publicly admonished.
Ignoring that malpractice insurance and lawsuits exist and that there is no equivalent for police, comparing a professional mistake typically made under informed consent in a medical setting with a child being murdered in the street means you’re trying to equate professional negligence with literal murder: they’re not the same.
But of course, the favorite tactic is to remind people that the police officers have lives that are being ruined too. I don’t know when we decided that murderers shouldn’t suffer from the guilt of killing people, that they should be sheltered from the fact that they took someone’s life. This discussion of how the officer is hurting often brushes over the loss to the victim’s family, the loss of life, and the nationwide feeling of loss by people of color.
It isn’t enough though for many white people simply to stomp on the graves of those recently lost in defending those that killed them, they have to criticize the way that their communities react to their death. I don’t know where white people get the audacity to tell people of color how to grieve—where they get the boldness to determine how someone emotionally moves through a system they have never experienced and often never have tried to help fix.
And let’s be real, what’s really damaging to communities? Is it police stations being vandalized or the acknowledgment that there are individuals roaming the streets in uniform who can get away with killing its citizens?
For a moment, I would like a white person to try to muster up the energy to imagine a scenario: think of someone in your life who you love dearly, maybe a family member or a significant other. Now if this person was shot in their bed, their car, in the street, with friends, on video, I’m sure you can imagine the unbelievable grief you would feel in this hypothetical scenario.
More importantly, how would you feel if other people came out supporting the person who just murdered someone you love, someone you care about? If the racism that is built into the policing system was pointed at you, would you ask for love? Would you want people to beg for peace if it was your body that was on the ground without justice?
If you can’t imagine how difficult it would be to be in situations like these, then you lack empathy, and if you can recognize how awful this would be, you should rightly feel ashamed of any time you contributed to this heartbreak.
These arguments asking for peace and love are intrinsically unloving and there is no peace without empathy and justice. You cannot love someone if you refuse to protect them.
At this point, I can only hope that I’m not falling on hearts incapable of listening. Too often it is the people who support a racist system who are incapable of acknowledging that they too might be racist. The same people who admonish property damage are quick to argue in favor of those who instigate violence and chaos.
Those people who ask for love, peace, and respect chose not to direct any of that love towards people of color, none of that peace towards dismantling a system deprived of peace, none of that respect towards the families grieving their loved ones.
If you want to be truly loving, advocate for those with less privilege than yourself, fight on behalf of those who are no longer with us, recognize that a system can be broken even if it has never been broken to you, and accept that people will grieve in whatever way they need when they have received no help from the institutions meant to protect them and the people propping those systems up.
If you continue to support police, without seeing a need for change, without recognizing the serious and systemic issues in the policing system, then you certainly don’t want an end to violence or murder, you want an end to accountability.
Families and communities who have lost those they love only want love and peace too, but they don’t have the luxury of being on the outside-looking-in, many white people do, and they should recognize there is far more love and peace in fighting for a system that won’t kill people of color than there is in supporting a system that does.