I grew up in a very interesting town. Despite its proximity to San Francisco, or its name (Castro Valley), there were still quite a few stark contrasts when it came to talking about race, religion, and diversity in general among my friends and myself. Sure we had a diverse school, with plenty of first generation students hailing from Korea, China, Mexico, Russia, to name a few….but somehow racism was and still is a problem. Several weeks ago many Peace Corps Volunteers in Cameroon, including myself, started a social media movement: we changed our profile pics to this, in response to the police violence that has occurred recently:


Black Lives Matter from Volunteers in Cameroon

Black Lives Matter from Volunteers in Cameroon

I was surprised when a laughing face emojicon was the first reply I got, from a friend’s little brother who I had grown up with, and was practically my little brother. What ensued was a long Facebook thread, a debate between one of my friends back home, and two of my African American friends who were/are Peace Corps volunteers in Cameroon, people who had never met in person, and probably never will. By the time I got home that evening and checked my Facebook, I was amazed at what had ensued throughout the day while I was blissfully working at a summer camp, unaware. I thought of shortening the names for anonymity, however if you went on my Facebook page their comments are there in plain sight:

Laura Preston updated her profile picture.


Laura Preston:Kevin, I’m trying really hard to understand why you think this funny…. 🙁


Kevin Tipper:Because BLM is a hate group. And white people feeding into it is insane. So it’s funny to me that you would post this.


Travis Brookes:Perfect. Please explain further.

Kevin Tipper: Well if black people actually cared about black lives at all they would be focused on black on black crime and why black males commit more crime than any other race. But make up less than 10% of the national population. Instead it’s a group that’s anti white and anti police.


Travis Brookes: Interesting. Im going to go and start working on that now. Thanks for your input.


Kevin Tipper: Your sarcasm aside. Statistics and actions don’t lie


Travis Brookes:  Please share these statistics with me. Id like to know your source. And id like to know why you think that you have the answer to a nationwide problem. When do you plan on running for president to share this amazing information with black people and the rest of the nation.


Kevin Tipper: Why don’t you look at the FBI crime rate And homicide census done in 2012. Where it states that it would take 40 years for white police officers to kill as many black people as it does for black people to kill each other in 1 year.


Kevin Tipper: But that’s just the FBI. No one credible…


Travis Brookes:So basically you are stating that BLM should redirect its efforts and focus on black on black crime and ignore the police officers who wrongfully murder blacks and face next to no legal repercussions. Wouldnt it be better if police officers and government officials…would I dont know work side by side with these communities that suffer from “black on black” crime together? Wouldnt it be lovely if they did what they were paid to do which is protect us? And question since you point to black on black crime whats the census on white on white crime. Is that a problem too? What are you doing to combat that? Please enlighten me. You see here is the thing black on black crime is just crime. Dont label it as some thing out of the ordinary. Crime exists in every community but you know what doesnt exist in every community? Cops killing black people. People are asking for cops to stop shooting to kill. Are you really going to argue and say we should stop demanding for the unlawful killing of people. Do you believe these shootings to be lawful? Why dont you take your expert skills and watch some of the countless videos that portray police brutality and tell me if its not a problem that should be addressed.


Kevin Tipper: Why don’t you get off your high horse and realize the bigger problem before you think I don’t do my research. But then again. You support a racist and terror group

Travis Brookes:Aww so now I’m on a high horse. Interesting, because it seems like you were the one casting judgement. But what do I know, I’m too busy killing my own people.


Nkili Grace: Dear Kevin,
I’ve complied a list of articles, studies and books I think would be great for you to look at. I understand your confusions when it comes to a problem this big and scary – racism is something we hate to talk about because it reminds us of a very sad and very embarrassing time in our history. But unfortunately, it still exists and the less we own it the more we suffer from it. The question now is how do we end it?
Well the first step, dear Kevin, is to listen, read, and be open and understanding to experiences that seem ridiculous to you.
Here are some articles I found through basic web searches.
Think of this one as BLM For Dummies:
If you’re more of a magazine, light reading kind of guy here’s this from GQ:
http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/…/black-lives-matter-all…Huff post anyone?
http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8078586Now here is rather heavy, but incredibly important research on mandatory minimums and racism in the law. I seriously urge you to read it. It’s a 15-page research paper put out by the ACLU.
https://www.aclu.org/…/141027_iachr_racial_disparities…Further reading:
-The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
-Between the World and Me, Ta-nehisi Coates
-Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison
-The Color of Water, James McBrideAnd a quick response to “black on black crime” and your “what’s the black community doing for the black community” concerns – research programs in every neighborhood that deal with ending the cycle of poverty: school programs, pop-up health clinics, community programs, prison programs, credit unions and bank loans – all these programs are run by black people for black people. Community programs to raise the standard of living for our most vulnerable and hard to reach populations are run all around the country regardless of race. Asking the “black community” to step up is like blaming your mom for you not getting into to Harvard. There’s only so much we can do at home if the system itself is broken.Look, here’s the thing, Kevin. This is important. This is probably the most important thing our generation will have to deal with. I implore you to read, to delve, to understand your world – yes YOUR world – and to put your research into action. You’re on the wrong side of history, my friend. And the faster you realize that the more your voice will matter. The world needs you – step up.
After you’ve read, asked questions and thought please feel free to message me with more questions on how you can get involved. There are simple things you can do, like make a point to shop at black-owned stores, that actually do make a difference.Don’t let history leave you in the dust, my friend. At the very least, when you’re fifty and your kids have a project on the Black Lives Matter movement – you want to be able to answer their questions with accuracy. You want your kids to be able to feel proud of their dad’s involvement with the biggest human rights movement of his time. Make your kids proud of you, Kevin.


When I returned that evening, I finally read the thread, and not knowing much else to say, I said what came to mind, to which another friend from home replied:


Laura Preston:Kevin Tipper you know you’ve always been my little bro but I have to disagree with you on this one, and side with my friends. You’re fighting against logic.


Jennifer Matula:Ihave to agree with Kevin Tipper, but travis you do have a good argument


Jennifer Matula:Disregard my previous post


Laura Preston:disregard which part??


Jennifer Matula:My whole post. Dont want to start argument


Jennifer Matula:How you been?


Laura Preston: Jennifer Matula you have a right to an opinon….this is actually a really good debate we’re having here, a dialogue that needs to happen if we want change the way things work in our country.



And so the debate ended there, with my friends from home ending the conversation. Whether it was because they were scared, enraged, upset, annoyed, or apathetic, I couldn’t tell. Perhaps it was a mixture. Calling my friend Travis, he was more excited than anything else. “How often do we get an opportunity to talk to people about this who are actually different from us? This is great!” I realized he was right, but somehow it still hurt, somewhere, thinking that the same people I grew up with, could have such a different view of the world that went against everything I stand for. All of my work, all of my attempts of sharing stories from Africa, only to still realize that people can’t accept people past the color of their skin, even in the same country.