What does it mean to be “treated like a Black person?” In this country, I believe it means to be treated as less-than, not enough, not smart, a threat, or useless. For example, a white doctor was arrested two weeks ago in an airport for being unruly. The incident quickly escalated to a scuffle with the police who were arresting him. During the fray, the doctor yelled out that he was being ‘treated like a Black person!” He was arrested; however, during an interview, after his release, he said he was making a point about police using excessive force on Black people.
Excuse me, doctor, let me take my earrings off for this one.
Did the police run up on you with their guns drawn? Did they use a taser on you even though you were seated quietly on the curb following their instructions? You weren’t racially profiled. You weren’t killed because of the color of skin. The police weren’t called because some stranger felt you didn’t belong in a certain place or cutting grass or barbecuing or selling water! The police didn’t stomp or kick you in the head while you were handcuffed! The police didn’t shoot you for holding a cell phone or selling cigarettes!
Guess what? You were NOT treated like a “Black person.”
In fact, the police were just doing their job.
In this case, like many others who consider themselves privileged, this man believed that he should have been treated with more respect because he was white. And because he wasn’t, he was lessened to that of a Black person.
Don’t agree? He proved it. By pointing out that Black people are treated differently by the police. By pointing out that police are more aggressive towards Black people than others. He felt comfortable trying to resist his arrest because he knew as a white man, not much would happen to him. Perhaps he was under the impression that being a white male, his inappropriate behavior would be accommodated.
And although we are mostly focused on this one man’s outburst, I also question the reactions of the police officers. Why did they pepper spray him instead of shoot? Was it because he was white? Why weren’t they afraid for their lives when this man was clearly belligerent? What stopped them from believing this white man was a threat?
Now I’m going to put my earrings back on because I’ve said my piece, but that doesn’t mean this is over. And while the young doctor shared his reasoning for his outburst, I have to say, I don’t believe him. I don’t think he said it to prove some social justice point. I don’t think he believes that Black Lives Matter. I think he said exactly what he meant – he was being treated like a Black person. I also think that that is enough punishment for any one person because in all honesty, why would you want to be a Black person at the hands of a white police officer when that doesn’t seem to work out well for us AT ALL?
This post was written by Cheryl Coleman and originally ran on the K12 D.C. Education Blog.