It Never Hurts to Check Your Privilege

Although there were many things I didn’t like about my old job, one of the things I was pretty happy about was my schedule. After about a year of dragging my old bones out of bed before sunrise and feeling like a zombie for the rest of the day, I was given the 9:30am to 6:00pm shift, which meant that I could wake up when it was already light out and, from about early May until late September, at least, go home when the sun was still visible. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it’s a tricky thing when waking up in the dark, staying inside under fluorescent lights all day, and then going home in the dark makes you want to fucking die.

So I really liked my schedule, and I experienced a pang of regret when I realized that my new job would not be likely to afford me the same one.

And it didn’t. Which is fine. I expected it, I can live with it, but now I’m back to that old state of never feeling like I can get enough sleep and panicking when I realize that it’s 11pm and I’m still awake.

Part of the reason I was awake last night is because it was finally hot enough in Seattle for me to be uncomfortable. I normally sleep a bit like a burrito with a little bit of the filling coming out – one leg sticks out from under the covers, but the rest of me is bundled up from head to toe. And I mean head to toe. In order to feel fully comfortable and ready to sleep, I need a portion of the comforter over my head and covering my ear. Ideally also my eyes. Last night was just too warm for that, so I fitfully fell asleep without covers sometime around midnight.

Another reason I couldn’t fall asleep is because I kept thinking about Ferguson. For non-St. Louisans watching the news, Ferguson is a suburb of St. Louis that’s about 30 minutes northeast of the city. It’s a pretty integrated suburb, as far as suburbs go, and although I did not live there (come on, the suburbs?), by all accounts of the people I know who do/have, it’s nice. It’s also currently swarming with police in full-on riot gear, which is a very strange thing for them to do after killing an unarmed 18-year-old black man.

So. Ferguson police shot and killed Michael Brown, who they claimed attacked them. However, Brown was unarmed and, witnesses say, had raised his arms in “don’t shoot” posture. This matters little to cops of all stripes, though, so understandably, the citizens of Ferguson weren’t happy when they gathered to protest this incident and hold vigil for Brown.

These protests and vigils soon erupted, though, as protests and vigils are wont to do when the people holding them are historically marginalized by a racially-biased media and systematically oppressed by a racially-biased police force. So they rioted. Well. You should understand that the riot area in question isn’t very large, and that reports of looting are nowhere near as widespread as police-sympathizing media would have the public believe (because that’s not as exciting). However, there was violence and property damage and a police response.

Which I understand. As awful as it is that an unarmed man was shot and killed by a uniformed police officer, I do not condone responding to violence with violence. However, I understand more that, according to Dr. Martin Luther King, “riots are the language of the unheard.” I understand that there is a world of difference between the violent crime that St. Louis endures every fucking day (and, ahem, turns a blind eye to when it happens to poor black people in traditionally shitty neighborhoods) and actual murder perpetrated by actual cops. I understand that when you, as a citizen, learn from experience to fear a paramilitary force of public servants who have sworn to protect you and distrust a media that turns a blind eye to that force’s crimes, sooner or later, you will not be able to contain your anger. Your anger wants respect. It wants attention. It wants to let the people who oppress you to know that you are not their property to be oppressed.

I also understand that the subsequent police response to the Ferguson situation is absolutely out of fucking control. There is no fucking reason why a suburban police force should be militarized to the extent that it shocks an actual Iraq combat veteran. I’m no criminal justice major, but it speaks volumes when the police respond in full, battle geared force when they are accused of murdering an unarmed citizen. This is not a legitimate reaction. This is a full-scale attack on a community that has exercised its displeasure with what is now clearly an institution committed to brutality. You want an army? Call in the National Guard. You want a police force? MAKE THEM PROTECT AND SERVE PEOPLE INSTEAD OF KILLING THEM.

What I don’t understand is how so many people I know on Facebook are hiding behind their privilege. I didn’t expect it, I guess. I had no idea I was friends with such dim-witted, fear-mongering sympathizers of violent offenders playing war with real weapons and uniforms in the suburbs. As one of my (actual) friends sighed, “Facebook, your racism is showing.”

I don’t condone violence as the answer to violence. I don’t condone anyone having their lives or property threatened because of someone else’s misdeed. But in cases like these, where the people with badges and guns are the ones literally getting away with murder, I will always align myself with the citizenry because we should always make the authorities accountable for their actions.

About erineph

I'm Erin. I have tattoos and more than one cat. I am an office drone, a music writer, and an erstwhile bartender. I am a cook in the bedroom and a whore in the kitchen. Things I enjoy include but are not limited to zombies, burritos, Cthulhu, Kurt Vonnegut, Keith Richards, accordions, perfumery, and wearing fat pants in the privacy of my own home.
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1 Response to It Never Hurts to Check Your Privilege

  1. Becky says:

    This situation has made the entire city feel very….tense. It’s scary and sad and ridiculous all at the same time. I’ve heard some people say things that really make me question their morals, but I was also alone last night and overheard a group of young guys at my QT saying they could easily overpower any of us at the gas pumps…and get away with it because of all this “riot shit” going down. Like I said, it’s tense.

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