There’s an episode of “Chappelle’s Show” that captures the problem with some folks in the world right now. On the classic sketch comedy show, Chappelle played a juror in various celebrity cases where he vehemently denied their involvement in crimes these celebrities have committed.
One case included R. Kelly ... I’ll assume you know what he’s accused of.
Anyhow, after Chappelle deflected numerous questions about Kelly’s alleged crimes, the prosecutor asked, “Besides the tape and the girl corroborating the allegations, what more would it take for you to believe [R. Kelly is] guilty?”
Chappelle proceeded to list an assortment of asinine requirements for the prosecutor to convince him beyond a reasonable doubt. Among the outlandish necessities, he required Kelly to hold two forms of ID with a police officer present; several of Chappelle’s friends needed to witness the crime, along with one friend taking notes of the happenings; and R. Kelly’s grandmother had to be present to identify him.
The prosecutor tells him that’s excessive and Chappelle essentially says it’s not.
Now, reading that previous heap probably comes across as the joke it’s intended to be. However, many of your reactions when hearing the struggles Black and brown people face in this country resemble these same illogical requests. You are the problem if you require copious amounts of irrational evidence to see the obvious.
Yes, you — the person reading this who still believes systemic racism doesn’t exist and that recent stories are “part of the media agenda to [insert excuse].”
Racism still exists; it didn’t fade away in the 20th century. It’s scattered throughout society and continues to harm minorities in this country. No, this isn’t the post-racist society you believe exists following 44th President Barack Obama’s eight years in office.
I could use an entire week to explain the ignorance of that sentiment, and it still wouldn’t suffice. Your friends and loved ones shouldn’t have to bend over backwards to illustrate for or educate you on the struggles they face.
Explanation is only required because you might see yourself in those who commit these civil rights violations or racist crimes, rather than their victims. You could believe every person accused of racial discrimination only intended to do their job and made an honest mistake. Especially in recent cases involving police, maybe that’s why you require the rap sheet of the fallen: It confirms the assumptions you’ve created in your head.
“Oh, [insert one of a long list of murdered, unarmed people of color] stole Skittles in seventh grade? Well now I understand why this happened.”
“Why didn’t s/he not just follow the rules and cross the street when the signal allowed? Yeah, I can’t really sympathize with them.”
Then, society is showered with the all-this-for-a-few-bad-apples spiel, as survivors and their families watch you miss the point of protests and the agony of the protestors.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the cliché “One bad apple spoils the (whole) bunch?” So why are so many people still complacent while dozens skate by with the atrocities they’ve committed?
Look, I’m not here to dump on police, because the majority of people know cities underpay and overwork officers, and the good ones outnumber the bad. But how can we identify the bad when the good won’t speak up? Those who attempt to do their job properly can’t adequately do so until rogue officers are out of the paint.
This isn’t a situation we can sweep under the rug with a series of quotes by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Speaking of which, I’ve noticed a flurry of King quotes on social media recently — mainly explaining how to protest properly. Can someone remind me how King’s life ended? Never mind, that’s not why I brought up MLK.
Ironically enough, I mentioned him to recite a quote that King often said, from a translation of Dante’s “Inferno”: “The hottest place in hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
When you witness friends falling victim to discrimination — or in some unfortunate cases, death — why would you do nothing? That’s the real-world example of Ron Swanson misusing his swivel desk to avoid people, rather than rapidly assisting those who need it.
What will it take to remove the blindfold to see this country has problems with Black and brown folks? Do you demand a ridiculous list of evidences? Or will you simply continue to look the other way?
Contact Marcus Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram and Twitter at @MarcusLHill.