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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: White People Feel Targeted by the Ferguson Protests—Welcome to Our World

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2014 file photo, people protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. Details may differ, circumstances of their deaths may remain unknown, but the outrage that erupted after the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of the unarmed, black 18-year-old by a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the nation. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
In this Aug. 17, 2014 file photo, people protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

 

White Americans feel like they are being singled out because of the color of their skin rather than any actions they’ve taken. That’s how black people feel. Every. Single. Day.

(TIME) – In 1971, a riot broke out at the Attica Correctional Facility in New York during which prisoners demanded more political rights and better living conditions. About 1,000 inmates out of 2,200 took control of the prison, holding 42 staff members hostage. Negotiations went on for days before state police stormed the prison, resulting in 43 deaths. Attica has since become a pop culture reference in movies, songs, and TV shows. Even children’s shows like SpongeBob SquarepantsTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Sabrina: The Teenage Witch have referenced it. The word “Attica” is no longer about what happened in that prison 43 years ago, but is now simply a synonym for political oppression.

I hope the chanting of “Ferguson! Ferguson!” and the symbolic upraised arms of surrender will become a new cry of outrage over social injustice that will embed itself in our popular culture as deeply as Attica did.

As always, there will be blacklash.

Many white people think that these cries of outrage over racism by African Americans are directed at them, which makes them frightened, defensive, and equally outraged. They feel like they are being blamed for a problem that’s been going on for many decades, even centuries. They feel they are being singled out because of the color of their skin rather than any actions they’ve taken. They are angry at the injustice. And rightfully so. Why should they be attacked and blamed for something they didn’t do?

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