This Is Exactly How White People Should Respond to the Baltimore Protests

Source: AP
Source: AP

"I've never been black."

With that blunt observation on Wednesday, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter nailed one of the major problems confronting white America as it tries to understand this week's protests in Baltimore.   

Showalter made the remarks at a press conference after the riots caused his team to play to an empty stadium at Baltimore's Camden Yards Wednesday. Furthermore, he had a message for those who seek to offer advice on what the protesters should or shouldn't be doing. 

"You have never been black, OK, so just slow down a little bit," he said. 

It is self-evident Showalter is not black. But the reminder serves to point out a simple truth: Many of the most prominent voices speaking out one way or another about the protests have no idea what the individuals involved are going through. 

This lack of understanding has given rise to the use of racially charged terms like "thugs," and has likely contributed to the national media's obsession with violence while ignoring the vast majority of peaceful demonstrators. Efforts to talk about poverty and lack of opportunity for young black men in Baltimore are often met with vacant stares.

What Showalter nailed in one phrase might be called the "empathy gap," which explains how white men like himself will never really be able to understand what it's like to make a quarter less in income, or to face housing discrimination, or unequal access to education or be 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police. These are facts of life the rich and powerful will never experience. What men like Showalter can do, however, is take a stand to change the facts; by changing the facts, you change the experience. 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jon Levine

Jon Levine is a staff writer at Mic, covering politics and people. He is based in New York and can be reached at JLevine@mic.com.

MORE FROM

8 of the biggest moments from the 48th NYC LGBT Pride March

The biggest Pride event in the world was a sight to behold.

Movement for Black Lives activists disrupt Minneapolis Pride to protest Philando Castile verdict

Protesters reportedly held signs with messages like "No KKKops at Pride."

Protesters reportedly arrested near NYC's Stonewall Inn, Pride March endpoint

The reason for the arrests were not immediately known.

Marchers arrested in Istanbul as Pride parade continues despite cancellation

The organizers' decision to move forward with the previously cancelled march led to clashes with police.

Car slams into Eid celebrants in UK, injuring 6; police say terrorism isn't suspected

Police say they believe an Eid celebrant was behind the wheel of the car that injured six outside a mosque.

Oil truck explodes in Pakistan, killing at least 153

The deadly fire broke out as residents rushed to collect the leaking oil from the overturned tanker.

8 of the biggest moments from the 48th NYC LGBT Pride March

The biggest Pride event in the world was a sight to behold.

Movement for Black Lives activists disrupt Minneapolis Pride to protest Philando Castile verdict

Protesters reportedly held signs with messages like "No KKKops at Pride."

Protesters reportedly arrested near NYC's Stonewall Inn, Pride March endpoint

The reason for the arrests were not immediately known.

Marchers arrested in Istanbul as Pride parade continues despite cancellation

The organizers' decision to move forward with the previously cancelled march led to clashes with police.

Car slams into Eid celebrants in UK, injuring 6; police say terrorism isn't suspected

Police say they believe an Eid celebrant was behind the wheel of the car that injured six outside a mosque.

Oil truck explodes in Pakistan, killing at least 153

The deadly fire broke out as residents rushed to collect the leaking oil from the overturned tanker.