To Hell With Your “Both Sides”

When you argue “both sides” are at fault, what you are really saying is that misdemeanor offenses by people of color justify felony responses from white people. What you are really saying is that a death sentence is a perfectly acceptable punishment for mundane traffic violations, trespassing, jaywalking, being high, or just flipping of a cop. When you argue “both sides” you are saying that black people should always be meek, respectful, deferential, and passive in the face of even the worst abuses so as not to “force” the police to escalate.

You are arguing for the equivalent of “If you didn’t dress like that, you wouldn’t have been raped.” You are arguing for the equivalent of “If you just obeyed, he wouldn’t have beat you.” You are arguing that those in power are free to abuse their power whenever they want, and those without power are not allowed any form of protest that might inconvenience white people or make them actually need to pay attention to the abuses.

THAT is what your “both sides” argument is actually saying. You aren’t “being neutral.” You are siding with those who are abusing their power. You aren’t “trying to see all sides.” You are dismissing the real anger, pain, and frustration of those without power. You aren’t “supporting the police.” You are supporting a police state where the police are free to abuse whomever they want and the only recourse people of color have is to pray they survive the encounter so they can sue (at which point, you will argue they are looking for the “ghetto lottery.”)

When you engage in your handwringing over property damage, you are ignoring the fact that the majority of the property damage and rioting is NOT coming from the actual protestors, but criminals taking advantage of the fact that the police are focusing on the protestors and not doing their jobs. It is no coincidence that the majority of the rioting has occurred after the marchers have moved through an area, not before or during, because the police are following the marchers. You are ignoring the fact that many of the incidents are being instigated by white supremacists, who are counting on you to only look at the video of the aftermath and assume it was the protestors. They are counting on you ignoring the later reports that reveal the white supremacists instigated the violence, because you are too distracted by the video of the next riot.

In short, your “both sides” position is not intellectual superiority. It is a lack of intellectual curiosity regarding root causes. You are hiding behind “both sides” not because you are trying to take a wider view of the situation, but because you are hiding from the wider view. Seeing the wider view would require you to acknowledge the fact that our country is built on a racist foundation. It would require you to acknowledge America was built on the genocide of the indigenous people who lived here, and the enslavement of people brought here against their will. It would require you to acknowledge that the end of slavery in this country did not wave a magic wand and remove centuries of damage. It would require you to learn about Jim Crow laws, Sundown Towns, Redlining, Food Deserts, and a host of other structural issues in our society past and present that overwhelmingly target people of color.

Your “both sides” position is not intellectual bravery. It is intellectual cowardice.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.” Elie Wiesel