A few years ago, I wrote about white people and their love of “awareness” on my blog Stuff White People Like. The post talked about how white people loved awareness because it was an easy way to feel like they were making a difference without having to make any real sacrifices. After all, curing cancer is exceptionally hard, but raising awareness of cancer is exceptionally easy. Both make you feel good about yourself, but only one requires you to be good at math.
White people just want to feel good about ourselves while at the same time making sure other people know that we’re doing our part. That’s why ribbon campaigns, rubber bracelets, and more recently, the ice bucket challenge have been such big successes. Not only do these things raise awareness but they take a minimal amount of effort and allow us to call attention to ourselves and our altruistic deed.
It’s safe to say the idea of anonymous charity died with the selfie.
All kidding aside, anything that helps to raise money to cure diseases that decimate lives is a good thing—the problem is that these diseases don’t need any more awareness. We all know diseases are bad—they end lives, cripple careers, and destroy families. So to waste all of our awareness-time on them is a bit foolish, especially when there are so many other things in this country where “awareness” could actually bring about real and lasting change.
In light of the recent events in Ferguson, there are few things that this country needs to be aware of more than what it’s like to be a black, male teenager. Our complete lack of understanding, or even a willingness to try understand on the part of whites is one of the key reasons why racial tensions in this country are so high.
I wish I could help here, but I’m a white, upper middle class writer with little to no experience as a black teenager. However, since I’m willing to dump a bucket of ice water on my head to raise awareness for ALS, there has to be something I can do.
I need to create a challenge, something that people can post to social media that will show that there is a double standard in this country, that we do get treated differently based on the perceptions of our race. It can’t require too much work, money, or effort and it has to draw attention to the good deeds being done by the person participating.
A bracelet seems trivializing, dressing up as a black male teenagers is offensive, and will probably do more harm than good. What made The Ice Bucket challenge so great was that it was a video that could easily be shared, then you could tag other people in it, rinse, repeat.
That’s it: the black teenager challenge, or the BT Challenge for short. It’s so simple anyone can do it!
Step one: Strap yourself up with a portable camera.
Step two: Go for a walk in your neighborhood.
Step three: Make it to your destination without being stopped by the police or killed by a vigilante.
Step four: Post the video to social media and celebrate the fact that you were able to do something that the majority of black male teenagers in this country can’t do without fearing for their lives.
Now that you’ve completed the challenge, you can go ahead and nominate other friends to participate and watch this thing take off! As a side note, I wouldn’t suggest nominating any of your black friends. But then again, according to the Washington Post, if you’re white, you probably only have one anyway.
Even if all this did was slightly raise awareness of the fact that being black or minority means that you play by a different set of rules in this country, it would be a major step forward in trying to prevent another Ferguson.
Or we could just keep dumping buckets of water on our heads.