Calling all white people, part 16: Devil’s advocate deviltry

Calling All White People, Part 16

(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)

By An Average White Guy

TODAY’S EPISODE: Devil’s advocacy can make a devil of you, too

[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]

From the very moderate to even the most progressive and seemingly open-minded white people, my brethren of the pink-hued skin seem to love to play devil’s advocate when issues of race come up. For some reason, they don’t seem nearly as eager to do so for issues like poverty, the environment, etc.

But that’s not the most annoying thing. The most annoying thing is the failure to realize, especially with an issue that is as highly charged (and dangerous to those affected by it) as racism and racial inequities, that to play devil’s advocate is to become a bit of a devil yourself.

Major social issues aren’t minor things, so why are you “playing” around at something, anyway? Unless you’re an actor in a paid role on stage or screen, why play the defender of the devil? And that *is* what a devil’s advocate is, you know. Essentially, the devil’s lawyer.

Why would you feel a need to defend people who are doing harm, when there are so many other less-sensitive and less-aware people to do that already? Why do you add to the stress of people of color to argue how just maybe some probably racial incident could be seen from one perspective as not racial at all? Why are you essentially on the attack…however soft an attack it may be…against people already under attack for the color of their skin and nothing more?

Moreover, why the insistence to play devil’s advocate for people who are least in need of your protection? Like, for example, the police.

Now, I’m not anti-cop. From friends of the family over the years to actual family members, I am now close to and have been close to current and former members of law enforcement. I even dabbled with the idea of going to police academy a few years ago for a mid-life career change. I’m not keen on anarchy and like to know someone is around to enforce the law. But the police are terrible on the racial track record and aim their actions disproportionately and unfairly at non-white people. The less white; the harder their approach. So I’m not here to try to cheerlead for them, either.

And why would I need to (or you)? I’m not saying that being a police officer isn’t stressful or risky. But there are more than a dozen professions in the United States (last I checked a few months ago) that are more dangerous than policing, many of which are actually more valuable and critical to our daily lives, and are people who we *don’t* lift up all the time and worry about like we white people tend to do with police officers. (BGIM note: here’s a list of the most dangerous U.S. professions in descending order…police are at #14)

Not to mention that the stats clearly show the threat of death (the thing the police keep telling us is a rising danger to them) has gone down for at least the past decade if not longer, and the Barack Obama presidency was one of the safest periods for police officers in modern history (while violence against non-white people by police was a frequent and disproportionate occurrence and one for which they have almost always gone unpunished, even for the most egregious cases caught on video). Police wield so much power, see so few repercussions when they do wrong, and still we rush to their defense. We are so eager to defend them and we say “blue lives matter” so easily while often tripping over “black lives matter.” (BGIM note: figures on police officers’ relative safety in recent years here and here.)

Not to mention the comments like, “Well, 98% of cops are good people,” which I see over and over, even as recently as yesterday. And yet it’s those 98% of cops who are very much doing things like stop-and-frisk on almost only non-white people or doing searches of cars for minor traffic infractions by non-white people. Things that are more likely to turn up evidence of criminal activities; things that if they were also done to white people (and they hardly ever are) would mean a lot more white people in prison to make things more proportional there (or maybe not, since stats clearly show white people are treated more leniently in the courts for the same crimes as non-white people). Also, when the so-called 2% of bad cops do wrong, who is there to turn off body cams or audio from dash cams? Or to protect them from being revealed or punished in other ways? Who are the people who don’t stop the bad cops when they’re out of control nor speak out against them? Pretty much almost all of those 98% of “good” cops.

And we also rush to the defense of politicians and celebrities (among other well-defended or privileged folk who don’t need our devil’s advocacy) who spew nonsense and dangerous rhetoric trying to downplay white supremacy and systemic (and personal) racism. Again, people who don’t need defending by those of us who claim to be critical thinkers and compassionate people.

Racism is evil. An evil that is woven deeply into the fabric of America. Evil is associated with the devil. If you want to be a devil’s advocate, you need to ask yourself if you’re becoming a devil yourself. Step away from the abyss. Please.
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1 thought on “Calling all white people, part 16: Devil’s advocate deviltry”

  1. I had two visits from the police last week. My two young-adult sons live at home with me. We are white. The first visit was at 2am, when a cop woke us all up because he had felt the hood of my car and it was warm. There had been a call about a sort-of similar car leaving a parking accident and somehow the cop knew the car was headed to my neighborhood. My sons had been home for an hour and it was not them, but because it was late and I was disoriented and sleepy, I woke them both up and allowed the cop to question them. It was only after that I realized I had placed my sons in a terrible situation. The cop was friendly (and, never forget, we are white so have that privilege) and acted like we weren’t suspects, but even so, he was not on our side. If my sons had not been home and accounted for, they might have been in trouble even though they were completely innocent. Plus, it was 2am. We were all in our underwear. The whole thing was nuts. My sons aren’t black, but being young and male, they were profiled that night. I got a little taste of what my POC friends and neighbors have to deal with every single day. Not sure if this story is useful, but I wanted to share. I respect the police, but I recognize they are not my friends,.

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