Last summer, I joined our neighborhood watch Facebook page and almost immediately regretted it. We were experiencing a rash of petty crime: A ladder missing from a front yard or cars being rifled through during the night — some of them had been broken into, but most were already unlocked.
Suddenly, the Facebook page was rife with warnings about otherwise unidentified “black males” guilty of everything from walking down the block and looking into car windows to driving past open garages and peering in. The frequency of these posts was unnerving. I was especially perplexed by the congratulatory nature of the comments below these posts, praising the poster for “vigilance.”
The Pages of Opinion invite readers to help narrate the importance of Black History Month through the prism of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The Blade has received dozens of pictures, poems, and essays. Here are excerpts; more submissions are at toledoblade.com/we-have-a-dream.
None of these suspected individuals’ crimes was substantiated. And as best I could tell, these black males, most likely teenagers, were no more likely than any of the white teenagers strolling through our neighborhood to be guilty of anything.
We possess the same unwillingness to root out our prejudice, because it is hard, and none of us wants to be considered racist.
As white people, we have the privilege to ignore where the system is unjust for people of color and to deny where we directly benefit from it. But if we can all agree that we do not want racism in our neighborhoods, we must root it out.
Rooting it out starts with revealing ugly truths about ourselves, then having uncomfortable conversations.
Racism will never end if each of us doesn’t make an earnest attempt at listening. Listening means not speaking. It means quietly considering where we are at fault, then making direct, conscious action to eliminate those faults.