A Facebook friend of mine just set the above image as his profile cover photo. He’s an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement whom I became acquainted with while working on an election issue in my state.
I look at this picture, and the first thing I think is: Wow. That’s… that’s really offensive.
Then I look at it some more. I think about it. Then I realize that for some people, like my Facebook friend, this accurately represents how they perceive the world in which they live.
We can criticize that. We can tell them that they are wrong to view the world that way. We can insist that things aren’t as bad as an image like this makes them out to be. And we may be right. But maybe we should stop and consider how terrifying life has to get for this to become your perception.
What do we do with that? How can we have anything approaching a productive conversation about race relations and criminal justice issues when starting from such divergent perceptions of the status quo?