Conversations about race are awkward for most people. But at a certain point, confrontation is the only tool left at our disposal.
Martin Luther King is remembered for his non-violent approach to activism, but even Dr. King developed a more militant mindset as he saw the nature of the beast he was up against. So as we consider solutions for police brutality, we can’t treat peaceful protest as if it’s the only option.
Isaiah Washington and Michael Jordan made that very mistake Friday, in two very different ways. Washington suggested that Black citizens take Monday September 26 off of work as a showing of solidarity. He urged whoever was listening to “Imagine the impact” of regular citizens, athletes and politicians taking the same day off, but he failed to consider the millions of poor people who can’t afford to use their jobs as platforms for protest. Not to mention the logistics of executing a nation-wide work boycott.
As far-fetched as Washington’s proposed solution is, Jordan’s is even less sensitive to the plight of the average Black American, a plight he’s decades removed from. The NBA legend jumped into the conversation by asking protestors in his native Charlotte to remain peaceful as they marched against the murder of yet another unnamed Black motorist, this time Keith Scott.
But Washington and Jordan both need to take a harder look at the issue before providing a solution. Both are still attached to old strategies of passive resistance or denial.It’s clear by now that America will take any excuse to avoid talking about race, or dealing with the uncomfortable conversations around white privilege and systemic racism. But directly confronting racism is not the nuclear option. That’s how Gabrielle Union chose to check Lena Dunham for her recently reckless White privilege — by making her answer for her insensitive comments face to face.
“I’ve already talked to Lena Dunham; I would love to talk to Kate Upton and Amy Schumer,” she said in a recent interview with xoNecole. Maybe I can help to explain the oppressive systems that have benefited and allowed them to say these careless, insensitive and offensive things. Those conversations are awkward as f**k and they get heated. Similar to watching people have conversations about consent.”
Of course, no one is suggesting the only way to confront America’s racial issues is with violence, but we do need to force honest conversations — and find a way to cut into Donald Trump and Brangelina coverage. And we don’t have time for anyone’s feelings.
Does Jordan want peace because he cares for his people, or because looted stores can’t sell his shoes? Did Isaiah propose the day off from work because he really thinks it will work, or because he just really hates Monday’s?
You can’t solve a problem until you get to the root of it. But passive protests like Washington’s won’t bring change any faster than Jordan’s attempts to ignore the problem. Both could learn a lesson from Gabby and force the issue directly with the source of the problem.
Isaiah may have lost a lot of White friends after getting kicked off Grey’s Anatomy, and Jordan may not speak to any Black people who aren’t teammates or family anymore, but both can make a difference in the current struggle for social justice by honestly engaging in discussion about White privilege and White supremacy.
So, instead of staying home from work on Monday, show up at the office and make your white co-workers talk about Terence Crutcher, Keith Scott, mass incarceration, the protests in Charlotte — anything to force an honest dialogue. Whether the conversation is awkward, annoying or scary, it’s the first step to understanding how far we still have to go.