Lately when I sit down to write I’ve been distracted by BlackLivesMatter. I’ve thrown out a few posts on Facebook, where my angle is mostly about how much it costs the taxpayers to keep paying for settlements, and court proceedings, and jail, related to police abuse, because municipalities insist on employing racists. My reasoning is that liberals already know this is wrong, but conservatives are supposed to be all concerned about fiscal management, so maybe this is an argument that might sway them. Police abuse wastes billions of dollars! Billions!
Plus it’s morally wrong, but if you want to read more about moral outrage you’ll have to go somewhere else, I try to stay away from that angle.
Instead, I escape by writing stories about a future in which hands-on policing is performed by camera-equipped robots that emit clouds of calming vapor as they embrace miscreants in padded arms and transport them to cells where impartial AIs study incident footage and determine whether they need to be arrested. By happy, calm police officers whose excellent working conditions don’t include things like being shot at.
As far as commenting on what’s happening in the here-and-now, I’m trying to keep my mouth shut while I continue to read all the stuff on Facebook posted by my black friends and relatives and by all the liberal organizations I officially Like. They are teaching me what to edit out of my fictional future, and what to include.
I was aware of the police abuse discrepancy long before I learned about my black great-grandmother who passed for white, and in fact, my ancestors on my black side were free people of color living on the east coast before there were any states united about anything. This police abuse issue still concerns them. My Irish ancestors, on the other hand, assimilated in less than a century due to the blond hair, and it kind of ticks me off when descendants of the people my Irish great-grandmother got on a coffin ship to escape from start yapping about how they’ve suffered too.
As far as political activism goes, I have a very finite amount of time and stamina, so I work hard at a day job doing extremely liberal stuff, and then I write about a future with the unfair parts deleted. I don’t respond well to manipulative types who try to lay guilt trips on me for not addressing their particular flavor of liberal activism. My own focus has to do with socialized healthcare in the United States, which is something we need in place right now as we address the serious injuries inflicted by police abuse. Get the bodies stabilized first. And stop encouraging a world where poor people are held in fiefdom to medical debt, where a broken leg or ruptured spleen can cost you a million dollars on top of the emotional degradation associated with suffering physical abuse. [Exits soapbox.]
Because when you have finite time and stamina, you have to be strategic about where you apply it. And I do want to apply some words and attention to BlackLivesMatter, because they do matter.
I do want to mention something interesting about Facebook, and social media. There’s an implicit bias study put together by Harvard. I remember taking it years ago when I first heard about it, and being sad to realize that yes, I did have some subconscious racial bias.
And then, I started hanging out on Facebook. And I friended some black ladies my age that I play videogames with, and then I found my black cousin and friended her, and I’ve got some other black friends, and their faces pop up in my Facebook feed every day.
And by the way, I work in a bad part of town. A lot of the black people I see in everyday life are stumbling around wasted, or asking for spare change, or maybe they’re dressed kind of streetwise, because you’re less likely to get messed with if you blend that way.
My Facebook feed counteracts all that with pictures of nice, respectable, happy black people having normal lives. Eating in restaurants, going out to hear live music, celebrating birthdays, showing off their new hairstyles. And some of my female friends are big on posting inspirational things, like sunsets with motivational sayings.
Recently I took that Harvard test again and to my shock and amazement, I had somehow decreased my bias. I went through it in slow motion until I figured out what was happening – I had gotten so accustomed to my black Facebook friends’ inspirational posts that whenever I saw an affirmation like “love” or “respect” I automatically associated it with a black face.
No, I’m not going to claim all my racial bias is cured, but I do think social media can be a great source of positive images that take us outside the everyday bias of our lives. A lot of white people really aren’t exposed to day-to-day images of black people that are neutral or positive, and blackness only registers when it’s threatening us, or in our way. I imagine there are also probably a lot of black people that only encounter white people in threat/obstacle type situations too.
In fact, I’ve noticed a lot of media coverage of BLM seems to focus on images of either black or white people being threatening obstacles to each other. Then there’s this one. This picture of Ieshia Evans stands out, which is why I love it. It is a picture of hope.