I know that our emotions are raw due from February's tragic school shooting in Florida. I know we must find ways to talk about gun safety. I get that the discussion will bring us into uncomfortable places.
But this week, Hal Bidlack, the former Democratic candidate for Colorado's Fifth Congressional District and resident of Colorado Springs, accidentally brought this discussion into the wrong place. In a recent column for a sister publication of The Gazette, ColoradoPolitics.com, he asks us to consider: "Are you equally sanguine with, say, twenty-five young men of color walking around your neighborhood with AR-15s on their backs?"
Creating images of black men that scare people is ineffective and wrong.
How likely is it that any of us will ever see 25 black men with AR-15s anywhere? The hyperbole in the rhetoric posed by the question is unrealistic, causing the imagination to run wild. This is
Also, since the initial conversation is about mass shootings, I will point out that none of the 11 mass shootings in Colorado history have been by anyone black. If people are going to panic at anyone they see with an AR-15, it is someone with Ronald McDonald hair, like the Aurora shooter. And decades later, we'd all run - after seeing a man of any race with a gun - in a trench coat.
Colorado is the home of the black cowboys and Buffalo Soldiers. Historically, we have always had guns. Today, you can see "brothers" at gun ranges. In Colorado Springs, we see black military personnel. We also have African-American cops and sheriffs who "carry" as they protect and serve. Black men should not scare us.
I know that Mr. Bidlack meant well. He would like people to see that at times black people are treated and viewed differently from some members of law enforcement or citizens. This is certainly true at times. But generally, black men in Colorado are law abiding, carrying their guns without incident. Just like white men.
Bidlack - like many of us - is showing some cultural incompetence and stereotyping. Cultural incompetence is a lack of skill in showing respect for or navigating the rules of cultures different
than your own. Stereotyping is believing false information about another race. Neither is racist.
Racism comes from believing in the supremacy of your race over other races. I doubt Mr. Bidlack or most of you reading this are racist.
Black people intensely hate cultural incompetence and stereotyping. We do not wish to relive America's ugly history. When you do these things, we will call you racist out of sheer frustration. We feel unfairly put down and will fight. We can't see your heart when you look racist - even though you may not be.
To help us all to move beyond cultural divides and stereotypes, I have compiled some of the top thoughts published in the black community on how to be connected to us. Google (how to be a good ally) and you will find lots of content. Here are some of the top insights:
1. Do not speak for us. There is a price to identify as black.
2. Do not create negative portrayals of black people to prove your point. This is an insult.
3. If you don't know, ask. Assume that you don't know.
4. Recognize that we have words only we can use. And do not use those words about us.
5. We believe in equality. We are not looking for special rights.
6. Stop stereotyping. Research. Read census data and/or black media both from the right and left.
7. Only we get to talk about our faults. Period.
8. Finally, understand if you are not taking our advice and direction in expressing ideas about our community, you are not an ally! You are not helping equality. And admit that this is how you relate to other cultures about your community as well. Think on this point.
I'd like to recommend a website: www.blackdemographics.com. Share or discuss this article (or on the website) with some of your friends of all races. By applying these rules, regardless of our race, we all can have better cross-cultural relationships.