If you have racist people in your life, whether they’re blatantly racist or well-meaning but misinformed, it’s your responsibility to educate them. Here are some commonly used arguments by those who don’t understand the deep inequality entrenched in American society and the subsequent importance of the Black Lives Matter movement, and some ways you can respond to them.
1. “More white people have been killed by cops than black people.”
This is a gross manipulation of statistics that doesn’t account for population proportion. White people make up 61% of the American population but only 51% of those killed by police. Black Americans make up only 12% of the population, but are 26% of the number of people who have been killed by the police. Black Americans are more than two times more likely to be killed by a cop than the numbers suggest they should be if our society was truly not racist.
2. “Not all cops!”
When protesters use the slogan ACAB or say that there are no good cops, they aren’t judging the individual morality of each and every cop, they’re criticizing the overall system that is broken. The cops that brutalize and kill almost never face true consequences due to qualified immunity and a lack of accountability from their peers. So yes, not all cops are inherently bad people, but all cops are part of a system that is unjust, corrupt, and fundamentally broken.
3. “Black people commit more crime.”
First of all, that’s a completely separate discussion from police brutality and white supremacist culture. Second, crimes committed by black and brown people are reported and convicted at a higher rate than crimes committed by white people. The gentrification of historically minority neighborhoods results in increased police surveillance of black people, and a higher amount of white neighbors calling the cops on people of color for perceived misdemeanors. When this is coupled with a corrupt police system that values arrest quotas, of course black people and other people of color have an inflated rate of reported crime. It doesn’t mean black people actually commit more crimes. Additionally, black and white neighborhoods with similar income levels actually have very similar rates of crime, but people often forget about the systematic economic equality that skews the overall data.
4. “Why can’t the protesters just protest peacefully?”
Peaceful protests against racism and police brutality have been happening for decades, and clearly, it hasn’t worked. Additionally, racists would complain no matter how peaceful BLM protesters were- don’t forget the way Colin Kaepernick was treated. The whole point of protesting is to disrupt the status quo in a organized and sustained manner, forcing those in power to create change that lasts. Almost every change that’s lasted in our country has come about because of protests that disrupt daily life enough for politicians to pay attention.
5. “Racism is a thing of the past. Why can’t we just move on?”
Actually, systematic racism is still alive and well today due to our country’s history of oppressing minorities, especially black people, for centuries. Racism exists today in economic, social, and political forms. There are countless examples of this, but one of the most egregious is the gap in economic success between black and white Americans. Through centuries of denying black people the chance to build generational wealth and economic security through slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, school segregation and more, black people face significantly worse economic conditions than white people.
6. “Most of the people killed by cops had criminal backgrounds.”
This should not and cannot be an excuse for law enforcement to commit murder. Even if someone had a criminal history, that isn’t a justification for their life to be ended. A criminal background, which is often unknown at the time the brutality occurs, does not justify use of excessive force that results in an end to a human’s life. Police officers are legally barred from acting as judge, jury, and executioner, and it happens anyway, with little to no consequences.
7. “White people have been oppressed too.”
In America and Western society as a whole, white people are not oppressed because of their race. White people can be oppressed due to other factors, like gender, economic status, or sexuality, but white people are not victims of racism. So, in the national conversation about racism and police brutality, white people are not the victims and should not be trying to take focus away from the true issue we’re discussing.
While these conversations might be difficult, and it may seem like there’s no changing some people’s opinions, education and reasoned discussion is the only way for us to truly change minds and hearts. It’s just as important to have these small conversations with people in our immediate circles as it is to contribute to the national discussions on race, police reform, and equality. Change happens with every single person that learns and grows.