Baltimore and Non Sequiturs

By Detrich Peeler (Morocco)

Today’s vocabulary lesson

Non sequitur: a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.

Black person: We want the police to stop shooting our unarmed black men, we want transparency, accountability and justice.

White person: What about the culture of criminality, low test scores and out-of-wedlock births?

In this example, a black person is talking about a serious issue, that is well documented and that must be a terrifying and demoralizing reality to have to live with. They are also suggesting a possible solution to the aforementioned problem. The white person in this example (#notallwhitepeople) has dismissed the problem and the suggested remedy and brought up an entirely different set of issues that are immaterial to the subject at hand while also playing with racial stereotypes that could only be gleaned through popular media, which as we know, is mostly controlled by the same types of white people who would offer this sort of retort and also have little knowledge of actual black people. The point of the entire exercise is to derail the conversation and in a cruel sleight of hand to put the blame on the marginalized for their own discrimination. So let me put a few ideas to rest:

1. There is no black culture of criminality, there is just criminality
2. There is no such thing as black on black crime, there is just crime
3. There is no such thing as a black culture of dependency and entitlement
4. There is no such thing as black leaders, we do not hold votes, we did not pick Al Sharpton; he is just a media personality, no more a black leader than O’Reilly is a white leader
5. Drug use and selling is no higher in the black community than in the white community and may very well be lower (this is anecdotal but I did go to college)
6. And not to contradict my last point, there is no monolithic black community
7. Thug is racist, any word that can only be used for one race and mostly said by old white men should be fairly obvious

And the last one, which I would like to spend more time on is this notion that black people HATE education. I had this idea for an Onion headline yesterday “Black Grandmother Disappointed to Learn Grandson First in Family to Graduate College”. This came to mind as I was thinking, could you find a single grandmother who wouldn’t be immensely proud of their family member for achieving that goal, and worse would be deeply disappointed.

When I was growing up all black people around us talked about was doing well in school, and fretting over, the mostly boys, who weren’t doing well and staying out of trouble. As an aside, when I was a child I spent most of my time, when we were not on the military base, with black people living in the poorer parts of town, not knowing there were areas with large white populations in cities like Jacksonville and Tampa, Florida or Washington DC. To continue, there is probably nothing that black people care about more and talk about more than good jobs for themselves and good schools for their kids. We built black universities when we couldn’t get into white universities. The first civil rights battle was for school desegregation, not voting, not interracial marriage, not housing, but good schools for black kids. Our schools are failing our kids and the majority culture couldn’t care less. I think it’s important to note that black people are some of the biggest victims in the for profit university scams. We are clamoring for quality education and it is falling on deaf ears.

Black people left the South, one of the largest migrations in the US, to escape state sponsored racist violence and to seek opportunity in industrialized cities. My own family was a part of that migration to the North ending up in places like Worcester (another place that I thought was all black growing up), Philadelphia, Trenton and Baltimore all living in what are now majority black inner cities. I spent a lot of time visiting my uncle in Baltimore during the 90s and I saw firsthand, though I didn’t fully understand what I was seeing until much later, the implications of almost a century of policies that have injured the residents of that city: redlining, de-industrialization, globalization, sub-prime mortgages, the drug war, mass incarceration, and simple neglect.

What do black people want, some ask. The same things we have always wanted. Good jobs, good schools, good police and fair policies that uplift and not crush. Black people are not looking for handouts and we most certainly do not have a sense of entitlement, this idea would be laughable if it weren’t so insidious. I am always disheartened when I hear a certain subset of white people talk about black culture as a list of pathologies, because black culture for me is just not that. My black culture is persevering despite the odds, working twice as hard and being twice as good just to get to the starting line, knowing that troubles don’t last always, that you may not have much but you’ve got your health.


This post is an excerpt of a post originally appeared on the blog A La Franco-Americaine.

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