Jay and I have been friends and so we’ve spent a long time chatting about this and that. On this particular day, my destination is Atlanta. On my way there, I see a police officer behind me. My hands become clammy, and I break into a cold sweat.
I explain these sensations and Jay feels that this is a good time to remind me that I only feel this way because of the media. About how police calls happen. About how yes some people do terrible things, but my involuntary, bodily reaction to the car in my rearview mirror was unwarranted.
When I quoted the Federal Bureau of Investigation on crime statistics and brought up recent events, he responded that if black people were doing positive things, they’d be on TV more. I asked what he watched.
I hung up and didn’t reply or respond to anything for a few months. Two weeks ago, he texted to ask me why I had not communicated or called.
“Well, when I explained to you that police in my rearview mirror gave me a low-level panic attack, you dismissed my experience as invalid. I took the space I needed to deal with that.”
I thought we were friends; I don’t understand why you would just cut me off like that over a difference of opinion.
I explained that my very real life and the lives of many others were not matters of opinion or debate. As the exchange receded into the back of my mind, I thought about how many times this has happened before.
He then sent me to a video of a black man sharing his reasons that reparations shouldn’t exist. I asked how this was relevant and got silence.
Now I’m here. In these situations, while there is a lot to be said about giving people chances to grow and evolve and learn, the discussion we need to have is one in which we see a person who holds a belief that is poisonous to us and is unwilling to have that perspective changed in any way.
Sure, they say that would be willing to given facts to back up claims, but then those facts – normally coming from painful experiences from ourselves and many others over hundreds of years and easily accessible on google, on the news, or just by interaction with other humans – are dismissed or derided if not entirely unremarked upon.
As this happens, I settle into the sobering truth: they aren’t changing for me. It’s not that I cannot save them, but rather that there was never any saving to be done to begin with.
The new normal for me of late has been looking at this across many communities and having to just pack things up because… what else am I going to do?
Sure, bygones could be bygones. I get that people are messy and imperfect, but I also have no tolerance who see discussions on systemic oppression and decisions on ice cream flavors on the same level of importance and are unwilling to change that fact about themselves.
And to be frank: do I want that? Why would I? It’s poisonous.