Finger Pointing and Neighboring

Black and White Neighbor

Like so many others, I am following the developments in Dallas, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, Kansas City and Florida,

And I know that there will be fingers pointed.

I could point my finger at the police, who disproportionately kill unarmed black men, who are seven times as likely as white men to die at the hands of police. Pointing fingers at all police would be uncalled for, as we know that there are quality officers who love & serve their communities well.

I could point my finger at our news stations, who report black crime at greater rate than white crime. Even though black crime rates have plummeted in the past 20 years, the reporting of crime with black perpetrators is higher than the crime rate itself (75% to 51%). Neuroscience shows that when we turn on the evening news and see higher frequency of stories involving black perpetrators, our brains begin to link blackness with criminality–and the more this link is triggered, the stronger the link becomes. In other words, our brains are being trained to link black people with crime. And when white crime is reported the white suspects are often shown more favorably, as seen here.

Of course, pointing fingers at all media would be uncalled for, as there are quality reporters & networks doing the heavy lifting to cover stories fairly.

I could point my finger at Hollywood, for continuing to show that black communities are solely dangerous, ghetto subcultures–for routinely depicting black neighborhoods as a disorderly place in which youth cannot be controlled by adults, so police are needed to crack down on violence to maintain order. Yet pointing fingers at all movies is ridiculous, as there are some great films that shape our imaginations in healthy ways about culture.

I could point my finger at the NRA, whose answer to all gun-related violence is always, well, more guns. Just buy more guns. Pointing fingers at solely at guns and gun owners is not the answer either, as I know that there are responsible gun owners out there (although I do believe regulations should change, but that’s another issue).

We should be pointing back at ourselves. We cannot continue to think that racism will disappear over time–that people will just become better with time. Racism must be deconstructed. But we don’t know where to begin, the issues are so complex, and we don’t think of ourselves as part of the problem. I mean, we’re not racist–we have black friends, co-workers, teachers. Heck, we’ll adopt a kid from Africa and serve meals in the inner city (and what’s the white savior complex anyway?). We certainly can’t have a finger pointed at us, accusing us of being the problem, right? 

Here’s the thing. We can’t–no, we won’t–deconstruct a system without loving each other well. I’m not talking about the fluffy, feel good concepts of love, peace and acceptance. I’m saying that we cannot love each other well unless we know each other well. 

We do not know each other.

This idea is based on the simple fact that white people and black people live separate lives in separate neighborhoods. White exposure to blacks is minimized, (except for the evening news), even as the country became more integrated. From 1950 onward, blacks and whites became more segregated across municipal boundaries. After 1950, they not only lived in different neighborhoods; increasingly they lived in different municipalities as well.  In other words, blacks and whites now reside in wholly different towns and cities

We don’t live together. We don’t know each other. And my guess is that we are afraid of each other because of it.

So many things will continue to keep us apart. How can we start a conversation about how we can start to come together, to do life together, to simply be with each other and know each other? It’s radical and simple and it just may change all of us–and the world.


Ready to start that conversation?

How have you done this in your life, in your community, in your neighborhood?

Share with us in the comments. We want to hear from you.

Laura Marshall
Latest posts by Laura Marshall (see all)

3 thoughts on “Finger Pointing and Neighboring

  1. Wow! I just had this conversation with my children. Except this article articulates it far better. I agree that gentrification has become a divisive plague. It happens at a far greater rate than we care to see. When we’re not in each others neighborhoods, we do not understand each other. What’s more, we are often forgotten.

    This leads to leaving whole groups of people out of textbooks (which we see here in Texas with the omission of whole groups of Latina(o) people). When we don’t see ourselves in each other, in textbooks, in movies, in situations of prosperity and light, we begin to doubt each other and most certainly ourselves. This creates a sponge of fear which we continually feed off of. We start thinking about ourselves as less than and some of us stay there and some of us fight back with everything we’ve got.

    This is a great opening to a discussion. I’m so glad to have come across this article. I’ve only recently discovered Mudroom in a concentrated effort to marry my spiritual writing and my social justice writing. They both seem to live separate from each other. I’m working hard on marrying them. Thanks for this.

    • Carolina,

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ve lived in my neighborhood for almost a decade and I have to admit that there are issue that I would have never wrestled with or even thought about unless I lived here. And I am so thankful for the opportunity to wrestle with these issues. And yes, I cam across the Mudroom fairly recently myself and dig the conversations that happen here…very beneficial & thoughtful.


  2. I think you’ve hit on a source of the problem right here:”We don’t live together. We don’t know each other. And my guess is that we are afraid of each other because of it.” I do want to see things change, but most of my friends of color are still online friends, though I’ve met a few of them in person. I live in a rural area and don’t have many neighbors. I do want to find ways to get to know more people, to listen to their stories, to dispel the fears and become close friends. May God help us to do this.

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