Michellene Davis
Screenshot: NJ 101.5

White people don’t want you to talk about racism. It doesn’t matter that there have been years of institutionalized racism and systemic bias that still continue today. The fact that you, a black person, would even bother bringing it up or talking about it makes you the real racist.

Even when we talk about the extrajudicial killing of black men by police, we are the ones with the real problem—not the police. Never mind that this continues to be a plague in our society—unarmed black people being killed by police who claim to fear for their lives while white men who shoot seven police officers and kill another manage to be taken in alive—just talking about it or even pointing it out makes black people racist.

This is a lesson that our people learn every single day. Michellene Davis is an executive vice president and chief corporate affairs officer with Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health (RWJ Barnabas). When a friend of hers shared a NorthJersey.com article on Facebook which announced that Fair Lawn schools would be employing armed police officers to guard campuses, Davis responded with a comment from her personal Facebook account which asked, “Who is going to train them not to shoot black children first?!?”

That is not an unreasonable question to ask. Many people are concerned with the presence of armed law enforcement officials being used to police and guard schools full of children. It is a valid critique of the current state of law enforcement.

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While Davis’s comment was not public and did not appear on a public post, screenshots of it were circulated, and once white people got a hold of it, all hell broke loose.

Mike Bates went to the Facebook page of Davis’s employer and called for her to be fired for her remarks that he claims were “racist and discriminated against all law enforcement.”

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“Would you trust your healthcare to a company where there is clearly racism at the top?? I wonder if they hire like attitudes as employees. Go elsewhere!!!!!” he wrote.

Similarly, when NJ101.5 reported on the incident, it painted Davis’ comment as suggesting police would shoot black children first, then quoted New Jersey Police Benevolent Association president Patrick Colligan as saying, “The anti-cop stuff is getting old. When we get painted with the same broad stroke just because we’re police officers, that’s racism in itself. You can’t paint every cop.”

Irony.

First of all, she did not make an anti-cop statement. She made an anti-police violence against black bodies statement. The only way you can even take that comment personally and view it as being anti-cop is if you are willing to admit that police killing black people is a real thing, and you think speaking against it is anti-cop.

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Next, we need all white people to stop calling something racist just because a black person points out something racist that happens. Us calling out racist behavior doesn’t make us racist. That is a decidedly intellectually lazy argument and hill to die on. But because the extrajudicial killing of black people at the hands of police is indefensible, and because white people just hate to see other white people called out for racism for some reason, they choose this argument as a way to derail any real discussion on racism itself.

Sad.

Davis eventually made an apology for her remarks—though I wish she wouldn’t have. There was nothing wrong with what she said, period. It is likely, however, that her employer forced her hand.

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“I want to publicly apologize for an extremely insensitive and offensive comment posted on facebook,” Davis wrote. “My concern for the safety of schoolchildren and gun violence led me to react to a headline without thinking. Having a late sister and other family in law enforcement I deeply respect the law enforcement community and appreciate their service and admire their sacrifice.

“To all law enforcement families, the community, and to my employer, RWJBH I offer a sincere apology,” she added.

Even after she apologized, however, RWJBH still placed Davis on administrative leave as of late Thursday afternoon, pending an investigation into the Facebook comment.

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RJWBarnabas Health wrote in a post on their own Facebook page that “Statements posted by RWJBarnabas Health official social media pages are the only statements that represent the views and policies of our organization.”

The comments under that post show you how upset people are that Davis dared to offer a critique of law enforcement.

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You can keep saying that black people talking about racism is what keeps racism alive and kicking, but you would be a liar.

Racists—and those who enable their behavior by silencing those who dare to speak out against it—keep racism alive.