Every once in a while, when I express a concern of racism, I’ll get the response, “I’m not racist. I have a black friend.”
I don’t think that’s valid here. I mean, Dylann Roof, the murderer who shot 9 black attenders at a Wednesday night Bible Study in cold blood and who clearly seems to be racist, hadsa black friend, Christon Scriven. And not only that, the black friend says he wasn’t racist, and that even after the shooting he felt “no different” about the Dylan Roof and who he was.
It’s the ultimate, “I’m not racist, I have a black friend,” defense that’s available there, writ large. And it doesn’t fly. As Larry Wilmore put it when criticizing Fox News for having on a black preacher who erroneously said the shooting was about religion and not race, “Fox News sends out a black preacher like his black is going to confuse me, right? Black don’t distract. It don’t. Black don’t distract, okay? But nice try anyway, Fox.”
You’re always going to find, if you look for it, a black individual who says that a situation that has everything to do with racism has nothing to do with racism. It’s not that hard. In fact, a 2013 Gallup poll stated that although 68% of black Americans think racism is a problem in our US Justice system, 26% of black people do not (by the way, the rate for white people is switched — 25% of white people think racism is a problem in our justice system, while 69% of them think that it is not a problem in our justice system).
The cynical side of me says that some black people want higher status in culture — especially those who have mostly white friends — and so they may ignore racism where it exists in order not to be seen as complainers (as many white people seem to resent accusations of racism). There’s also the fact that our society is so steeped in racism that it becomes, to many blacks, as noticeable as water is to a fish — it’s just part of the way things work, and since we don’t know anything different, we don’t really see a point in complaining. Another reason is a sense of denial — it is very hard to admit, for many, that you are treated as an inferior citizen, so the temptation may often be strong to ignore it. Still another might be acceptance — there may have been, before, a knowledge that racism exists, but there was nothing the black person could do about it, so they just accepted it and moved on, so that they don’t really think about the injustices anymore, which gives them a sense of peace they’re reluctant to leave.That some black people may deny racism exists does not diminish the facts of the matter, though. Regardless of what Dylann Roof’s friend Christon Scriven states, Dylann wrote a racist manifesto, exhibited racism in his chosen dress and speech, and also made a racist statement about how black men raped white women as a reason he had to carry on with the shooting. By all accounts, he was racist. Those are the facts, pure and simple.
I think the lesson for white America –and America in general — is to take the time to look at the facts of situation to determine racism. Racism is clearly documented when it comes to medical care, employment, social environments, law enforcement, the education system, the justice system, and literally every part of US society we’ve studied, and a random black person here or there who says it’s not a problem does not change the fact that it is and that millions of your fellow citizens are suffering from it day in, day out. And if a black friend is denying it, then he is part of the problem — just as Christon Scriven is part of the problem for not reporting the goals of Dylann Roof (as he knew about them) to the authorities.