Coming to a misunderstanding about race and privilege

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It was after grand juries in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, NY declined to prosecute that — from this distance, anyway — things got interesting.

Two more unarmed black victims put to death by white cops who would never face legal consequences, a blip in an ocean of injustice and tragedy. But this time was different.

It takes a lot to get Americans, even fully outraged ones, out there in the streets, especially after winter sets in. But they came out, from Oakland to Miami, to stand against these sanctioned killings of young black men that have been going on since before any of us were born.

They shut down major intersections and chanted in front of government buildings. They staged die-ins in the most conspicuous places they could find — in Greensboro and Winston-Salem it was in front of the Christmas tree during the cities’ lighting ceremonies — to communicate dissatisfaction with things as they are, and have been for some time.

And yet, it seems that much of white America doesn’t get it.

These two victims, Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, were demonized almost immediately by the agencies who did them in, their stories brought into line with a false narrative about crazed African-American males, then disseminated by a complicit media. This version of events, at least, made sense to regular white folks who could never imagine taking part in a society that lets police officers kill unarmed children with impunity.

But to see young, black men getting killed by police, you must first see young, black men at all.

In August, the Public Religion Research Institute released the results of a study that found fully 75 percent of white people exist in “entirely white social networks without any minority presence.” That means three out of every four white people don’t know any black people. None.

It’s awfully hard to see bias when it never comes up. And it’s hard to feel privilege without ever encountering a life lived without it.

More so, it’s not easy to understand something when you don’t want to understand it anyway.

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