/Despite Ferguson controversy, racial issues and white privileges are not a gray area

Despite Ferguson controversy, racial issues and white privileges are not a gray area

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Ngoc Vo
Opinion Editor

In light of the shooting of Mike Brown, an allegedly unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer, I want to take a closer look at the racial problems (especially ones towards African-Americans) in Troy.
Last year, a Troy student was in a violent incident with police.
“What I learned from my situation and what went on in Ferguson is that more than some of these cops will abuse their authority,” said Kaiyan Dixon, a former Troy student from Troy, who was tased by campus police in October 2013.
“When the race card is played, everyone knows who’s being targeted,” Dixon said. “All it takes is to be considered a suspect, and they feel like they can handle you or the situation any kind of way.”
University Police Chief John McCall contradicts this claim, saying the officers give the same treatment to everyone.
“Anytime you get into a confrontation with police, it’s gonna end bad regardless of race,” McCall said. “You should comply with police. Take your fight to court, not with us.”
Ferguson’s police department released its report of the incident after strong public demand. However, some witnesses’ claims conflict with the report.
“What gets to me the most is how police can say whatever they want and it’s always their word over yours,” Dixon said.
There are usually multiple angles on incidents like this. They all seem like a big, gray area. At the same time, racial discrimination and white privileges are more of a black and white thing. They exist.
Feb. 26, 2012, unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Florida.
July 17, Eric Garner from Staten Island, New York, died after a police officer put him in a choke hold.
Aug. 9, unarmed teenager Mike Brown died after being shot multiple times by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.
Those are facts. So are these:
When Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree, The New York Times ran an article portraying him not as a criminal or a murderer, but as a “troubled” child of divorce.
Reporters covering the case against the Steubenville, Ohio, rapists said that the guilty verdict would ruin the assailants’ “promising” lives.
Such immediate media and popular sympathy is one of many white privileges in Western cultures.
I feel discouraged to discuss white privileges with my peers because more often than not, I have to stress that I am not saying white people are evil, or that white people are the only ones who have enjoyed privileges, resources and the power of oppression.
Such obligation, again, illustrates white privileges.
“People become very sensitive when it comes to racial topics,” said Lakerri Mack,  assistant professor of political science and adviser of the Troy chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). “What’s happening in Ferguson, and nationally, is due to a lack of understanding. It is very important to have collegial communications over race and stereotypes.”
According to Troy NAACP President Quenton Martin, a junior social sciences major from Tuscaloosa,  African-Americans, particularly males, face a lot more prejudice than an average person.
“(People) don’t understand a lot of things we do, then they take it negatively,” Martin said. “Like tennis shoes, jeans and jersey are deemed derogatory. (The ways we talk, dress) are just our culture.
“African-American males have been portrayed as a subject to fear. We never fit in. We are treated a bit overboard not only from police but also from other power authorities, from the workplace to the classroom.”
Being a member of a public organization, Martin said in most cases, he has to address issues in a very calm and professional manner, in order to not be misinterpreted.
“It is a privilege that I do not have,” Martin said. “When I speak, I cannot appear too strong, or too emotional, even when it is an emotional matter.
“(As an African-American male), I am already conceived as violent and agitated by the media. I don’t want to be feared or misjudged.”