It’s so hard to eloquently formulate my thoughts when my gut is wrenching. I guess this is my attempt to make sense of things and to find hope when it feels like there's none.
I woke up this morning and did the same thing I do every other morning, check my phone. As I perused through Facebook I quickly realized something terrible had happened yesterday.
Alton Sterling, 37 from Baton Rogue, was shot and killed by police. I wasn’t there, I obviously don’t know the details so I’ll leave that to someone else to share but there was a video (WARNING: it's graphic) taken by a bystander and that spoke for itself. This man, this black man, was tasered, taken down to the ground and shot repeatedly by men tasked with the job to serve and protect. His weapon (which by law he was allowed to carry) remained on his person until removed by police before they walked away from his lifeless body.
So now I’m sitting here feeling like someone punched me in the stomach. Looking at the monitor while my youngest naps and listening to my daughter play with her dollhouse. A thought crosses my mind, something I’m embarrassed to think and ashamed to write but that I know is true. My children are protected by their whiteness. Obviously, as a mother, I want my children to always be safe BUT as a human being, this thought causes me enormous pain. This, this safety of whiteness, is the definition of white privilege.
Imagine now, you’re a black mother, sitting this morning in your dining room, drinking your coffee, because, like me, you too, got no sleep last night. You woke up to the same story as I did but your thoughts now as your children sleep and play are much different. You worry that no matter how well you raise your children, no matter how smart they are or polite they are, no matter how kind or genuine, that one day they could face a similar fate to Alton Sterling or Tamir Rice or Michael Brown or or or (because, as you know, the list goes on). Like any mother you want to keep your kids as safe as possible but you know they are at a heightened risk. This exacerbated risk is not because your children were born black, it might seem or feel that way but that’s not the reason. The REAL risk is that we currently live in a society that promotes racism and rationalizes the murdering of black people because somehow their lives matter less. The REAL risk is that we have a justice system that is applied differently depending on who is administering it and who it is being administered to. The REAL reason is that there is a lack of love and kindness towards our fellow humankind regardless of color or sex or sexuality or ability. The REAL risk is that hate is being shouted and celebrated by people in significant positions of power (ahem – Donald Trump).
I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to have this fear and I have never personally had to deal with racism because, well, I’m white.
What I DO know is that this should make people mad. Even madder than we were about a rapist who got a slap on the wrist for raping an unconscious woman. Yes, he was white and a star athlete. There's that white privilege again. Imagine he wasn’t. Imagine how differently things might have played out.
I sat this morning feeling helpless because there's been so much hate lately. Alton, Orlando, Baghdad and so many other instances I'm not even aware of because the media didn't deem them worthy of our attention. I sat and had the urge to close my eyes to the horrors of the world and block it out by watching garbage reality tv while scrolling through twitter. I resisted that urge.
I write about a lot of things and I often talk about issues that are pretty superficial or materialistic (yes, my earlier post today was an outfit I wore, so there’s that) but I care so very deeply about other things, things much more important than the clothes, shoes or accessories I wear or the kid products I love. I care so much that sometimes it’s hard to face the harsh realities head-on. It hurts and that helpless feeling creates an immobility that's hard to shake. Thankfully, I've learned that ignoring reality doesn’t make it go away. Staying silent doesn’t make it better.
Doing nothing... does NOTHING.
Doing nothing... does NOTHING.
There is something horribly wrong.
We cannot ignore it, we cannot deny it.
No matter your color or background we ALL have a responsibility to our fellow humans to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING to try and not only make this world a better place for our children, but for everyone and NOW.
There's too much hate, not enough love.
Hate for people of a different color, people who love people of the same sex, people who have different abilities... people who are different period.
What can I do?
Listen, I don’t have all the answers and it’s so big that I too feel helpless but that doesn’t mean we are powerless.
Talk about it. START the conversation. You might not have everyone on the same page as you and you might not change anyone's mind. You might not. There will be zero chance of you altering someone's thoughts or future actions if you say nothing. THAT is a guarantee.
Challenge it. Racist jokes and statements are NOT funny. Saying hateful things about anyone is NOT okay. Speak up, call people out. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and you might not be the most popular party guest, do you really care? I'm not willing to sacrifice my integrity for popularity. I would much rather my children see me challenging this garbage than them growing up knowing I said and did nothing.
Listen. Listen when people talk about examples of racism and discrimination that they've experienced. Try and understand areas where you might be privileged and how your privilege disadvantages others. DON'T dismiss or rationalize racism, discrimination or oppression. Under no circumstances are these things okay. EVER.
Be an ally. For the love of all things good use whatever privilege you have to talk to people, educate and engage in a conversation about oppression. Stand with people in their efforts to create change, spread the messages, use social media for good.
Use your vote. That should require no explanation.
Advocate for change. This means something different for everyone. It could be in your community, by lobbying government, by peacefully protesting, by fighting for changes in your workplace or your children’s school. There's always something you can do.
Teach your children. They will quickly and far too early learn the about the atrocities of the world. Do your best to educate them and encourage them to challenge, just as you have done, when they see oppression happening. They learn from YOU and from the people around them. They need to see you as someone who does not tolerate oppression.
Change is possible, but not when we do nothing.
I want there to be love, kindness and respect for everyone. That starts by me being loving and kind and respecting everyone and teaching my children to do the same.
As parents we've been given a profound gift. Not only the gift of life and family but also the gift of the ability and responsibility to shape these little people into loving, kind and respectful adults. We cannot take that responsibility lightly.
I don't know everything (quite obviously) and cannot for a minute understand what it's like to live with this kind of oppression and racism. I could sit with that and get lost in it OR I could try and be a catalyst for change. I choose the latter, I urge you to do the same.
If you have any other suggestions for things I, or anyone, can do, please comment or message me. We need to open up spaces to have these conversations because when we start talking about it we just might start to see some change.
Don't be silent.