A lot of ink has been spilled on Ferguson and it might relieve you to know that I do not intend to spill anymore. So many pieces have been written, and they’ve addressed the situation far more poignantly and eloquently than I could ever hope to accomplish. I do hope that you’ve read at least a few pieces and that more than a few of those pieces were written by people of color. If you’re like minded, you’ve probably already read them. If you’re not like minded, nothing I can say can convince you to do so, but nonetheless I’ve included a few links at the bottom for those who might be inspired to take a look.
End of riff.
I want to talk about global population.
Lately, I’ve gotten to thinking about populations because I write a lot of pieces about the pharmaceutical industry, clinical trials, and medicines in “developing nations”* I knew before but my work reinforced the knowledge that both China and India have a billion people living within their borders. One billion.
This is like astro-math. I can’t even fathom a billion, and the only way to understand what that means is context.
The United States has 316 million people. That’s a big number despite the astounding wild west efforts of the NRA to make sure we have the ability to pop each other off, and we do. 32,000 gun deaths a year. But still, it doesn’t quite make a dent. Lots of people. Lots of land. Woop.
Australia has a land mass only about 100 million less square miles than the U.S. but by comparison has 293 million less people. This makes sense because the vast majority of the inner part of the large island is DEATH. Really. It’s a sort of desert death that I have no real wish to experience. Do you know how many human flesh consuming animals live in Australia? Look into swooping season, as I have done recently, and say a silent prayer for our brethren down under. Seriously, you guys. Are you okay?
The U.K. is a set of substantially smaller islands (about 30% the size of Australia), and yet despite the rain, fog and criminal lack of culinary spice, possesses about 64 million people. The crowded, kinky, cranky tea-drinking British, how I love you.
Canada has about 35 million, roughly half of England, despite being 1 million square miles bigger than Australia. This is because of ice.
Europe in total (depending on where you draw your lines) has 742 million people. I’ve included Russia. Again, lots of land, not a lot of people. Because ice.
And with that, we haven’t scratched past the population of India, which has 1.2 billion.
China has another billion.
The populations of these two countries together ::whispers:: outnumber the white people on the planet. By a lot.
Wait, wait, wait. Time out, you say. That can’t be right. You’re right to be suspicious of my math skills, but I assure you I’m in the ball park.
To say that there are 1.3 billion white people on the planet would be a very, very generous estimate. In fact, I’m sure it’s off by a few hundred million. India and Lichtenstein probably have white people locked on their own.
On a planet with 6 billion people, substantially less than 1.3 billion are white people.
Did you just read that with the movie trailer guy voice? Because I did. And it’s a movie that usually ends with tidal waves and people running, screaming, and hiding in caves.
But here’s the thing. Despite being a frank global minority, white people are not really persecuted. In fact, historically, white people have done most of the persecuting.
If you don’t believe me, look at where the money is. White people have most of the money and most of the chemical weapons. I don’t know the exact math, but I’m going to scamper out on a limb and say it’s up there. In fact, just 85 people own more wealth than half the world’s population combined. A disproportionate number of those 85 people are white.
That’s a population considerably less than even Australia. So much less that it doesn’t fit on a calculator. (Which I need because I’m a math delinquent.) It’s four people more than Ethelsville, Alabama.
That’s the world. So ask yourself, how much longer can that last? Maybe it lasts forever, but maybe it doesn’t. It’s a very complex issue, I know. But have you been reading your Darwin? Eldredge and Gould? I have two words for you: punctuated equilibrium. I may be taking some liberties there, but look into it.
Of course, white supremacist groups and neo-Nazis take these numbers as an excuse to declare victim-hood, an opportunity to ramp up persecuting attitudes and stockpiling semi-automatic weapons, but honestly, isn’t this a bit like hocking a luegy in the ocean? A better idea might be to cease all such behaviors if not for moral reasons than for the simple reasoning that someday tempers are going to just snap. Stop all this “the other” crap because it’s senseless and mean, but with “the other” having a 5-1 majority, it’s just stupid.
See? Everyone else hits you with morals, history, pain, personal expression and ethics, but I just dropped a steaming pile of logic down on your dinner tray, and I do suggest you eat it.
If you’re a person of color, be encouraged. If you’re not, well…
In the immortal words of the artist formerly known as Prince in his 1995 hit “Pussy Control,”: “You better act like you understand.”
*what the hell is a developing nation? What does that even mean?
As promised, here are some links. I’m not asking that you agree, I’m just asking that you maybe consider listening. Because morally and statistically it’s a good idea.
Roxane Gay’s “Only Words”
Gina Crosley-Corcoran’s “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person”
Kiese Laymon’s “My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything Okay”