The White Kids Are Lionized; The Black Kids Are Demonized
It probably isn't any big surprise that, despite his strident hatred of Islam, I remain an enthusiastic fan of Bill Maher.
So, when I sat down at my iMac and watched his interview of two of the rich, white kids at the forefront of the #NeverAgain movement, I had to go back and look through his archive to see if he had any of the poor, black kids behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Let's be be clear — I find being lectured by people who still haven't learned to do their own laundry and just barely passed that crucial calculus exam to be incredibly grating. I don't give a shit what label they wear, it is pretty much standard knowledge that anyone younger than 25 is almost evolutionarily stupid. Until you've lived a bit more of life and had to suffer the sacrifices and disappointments that traveling down the road offers, your opinion of the world is fairly limited. To truly be an adult, one needs to experience true failure and accept it.
With that in mind, they’re right. My time on this rock is more than halfway complete and this is their world now. My liking that fact (or cowering in fear of it) changes nothing. It was this way when I was a kid and when my parents were kids and it has been this way all along.
Extremism is the pervue of children, perpetually vacillating between that which gives them pain or pleasure and a lack of the transactional nature required to function in the body politic. Those who truck in extremist rhetoric are all children but it is only appropriate in genuine children.
Plainly stated, these angry, motivated, intractable kids are doing their job.
When I step into a classroom full of kids as the substitute teacher, I understand that ignoring me, trying to get one over on me, and, in general, my untimely demise, is their job. I don't take it personally that they sneak their cell phones out or pass around bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos. It isn't even annoying that they routinely continue to get up and fuck around until I have to bark to get their attention. I'm the sub. It is my job to barely control the out of control ship that is the average school classroom.
My job in society now (or responsibility or whatever constitutes my contribution to the thing) is to observe, help when I can, and get out of the way.
I applaud the kids from Stoneman Douglas H.S. for their straight up balls to take on the NRA. Sure, they're a bit arrogant and irritating in that way Ferris Bueller would be if I encountered him in real life. They're also right.
But Parkland, Fla. is a tiny, wealthy, overwhelmingly white community and those kids have much less to lose by taking a stand than the black kids in Ferguson, Mo. By taking a position and going full throttle into the breach of activist protest, the kids from Stoneman Douglas are only ensuring a more solid scholarship to Berkeley. The kids from Ferguson were tear-gassed and jailed for doing much the same.
Why is that? Why do the black kids get ignored and demonized for finally opposing lethal police brutality and the white kids get compared to the Freedom Riders for challenging the NRA?
Well, racism, right?
I think (hope) it's a bit more complicated than that, though.
The argument against police brutality toward black Americans is narrow and that constrained message doesn't speak to the vast majority of Americans (even though it should.) The argument against the NRA is about all children going to schools (at least the kinds of schools the types of kids from Parkland go to), which makes it a bit easier for the majority of white liberals to champion. Only a segment of the population owns guns (even if there are more guns than cars in this country) but everyone relies on the police.
Then there is how well-spoken the white kids are. And how loud and angry the black kids are.
And the white kids don't burn their neighborhoods down but the black kids do.
After all, one might suggest, the kids in Stoneman Douglas were just innocent kids gunned down by a bloodthirsty asshole with hyper-violent tendencies. The black kids were probably doing something that instigated the police into defensive action.
The most optimistic part of me wants the collective reaction to #BlackLivesMatter and #NeverAgain to be complicated. Surely, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Maher aren't seeing through the lens of propagandized villainy attributed to poor black people in this country since long before the Civil War to justify their enslavement. Surely not.
Dahleen Glanton wrote in the Chicago Tribune last week:
"America isn’t yet at its tipping point with police brutality. The issue doesn’t come wrapped in a neat little package that the mainstream can feel comfortable with.
"The Black Lives Matter movement is extremely marginalized. It is specifically about protecting African-American lives. It will take much more effort to get the rest of America on board with that cause.
"But if the young people involved in Black Lives Matter are as smart as I think they are, they will not be silenced. If they are vocal enough, America will eventually reach its tipping point on the senseless police killings."
Trust me. I want it to be more complicated than the racism so hard-baked into the cupcake of the nation but, Christ, if it doesn’t seem to boil down into the roux of prejudice.
I find both the kids of #BlackLivesMatter and #NeverAgain to be annoying. Arrogant, disrespectful, know-it-alls with nearly zero life experience lecturing the world about how they're gonna fix the shit we messed up as if it was all just that fucking easy. While the kids get a pass because they’re supposed to be so childish and tantrum-throwing, my annoyance does not get in the way of acknowledging that they are right.
This is our mess that they grew up in like kids born in a sewer looking around and saying "Wait. What is this shit?"
Who in their right mind openly fights against basic human equality? Who fights against the protection of children with every level of melinin? Few. There are some but few.
Who in their right mind casually demonizes one set of children for fighting against a government who does not protect them but lionizes another set of children for doing the same thing because the second set is better spoken, more polished, and oh so white?
Sadly, a lot of people.