Why Having a Black Friend Is Not Enough

In case you missed it, on Monday a video surfaced of a policeman in Columbia, South Carolina dragging and pulling a black student from her desk while her classmates and teacher watched. Almost immediately conversation and speculation swirled around the internet.

While some wanted to wait to see if the student “provoked” the officer (which would not have warranted that type of force on a student) others immediately felt that it was another instance of police brutality against Blacks in America. And it was.

I don’t need to know what she did before the police officer attacked her, I don’t need to know if she had a history of disobedience at Spring Valley High School. What I need to know is why is this still happening after almost a year and a half of conversation about race and police brutality against Blacks in America.

So on Tuesday, to shed some light on the situation, Sheriff Leon Lott got up on a podium and tried to justify the deplorable acts that occurred Monday afternoon and it was very problematic.

First, Lott said their investigation would only based on if the officer acted within the training he received from the police department, insinuating that he force the officer used could have been appropriate. Then he patted himself on the back for “swiftly” asking the FBI to investigate this case as well. And finally, Lott attempted to dispel the idea that the officer treated the student the way he did because she was Black by saying the officer who used unnecessary force to handcuff the student “has been dating an African American female.” But since when does dating a Black women mean that a person can’t be racist? Why does dating a black women automatically excuse him from the crime?

It seems that any time a person says or does something that is racist the excuse to quickly follow is something along the lines of “I’m not racist, I have a black best friend!”

But what does that do for me? What does that do for the mother who has to watch her child get slammed to the ground over and over again on various media outlets? What does that do for 12 year old Tamir Rice whose life was taken away from him way too soon? What does that do for his parents? What does that do for the little black boys and black girls scared to leave their houses every morning because time and time again the world has shown them that their lives in fact do not matter? That they deserve to be treated as men and women when they are barely over the age of 14.

I need people to stop using having a Black friend, significant other, family member, etc. to excuse the racist comments that come out of their mouths or racist actions that occur.  Knowing a Black person, smiling at a Black person and even hiring a Black person are not reasons to ignore the problematic things that happen to Black people on a daily basis. These things are not the same as being an ally and should not be confused with that either. Racism is a systemic issue, it is deeper than your personal relationships with Black people.

You want to be an ally, use your privilege during intense moments, call friends and family members out when they try and belittle the treatment of Black people by police in this country. Provide overwhelming support for Black loved ones in your life, we need it. And finally never, ever use your relationship with a Black person as an excuse for why you cannot be racist or oppressive.


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