I don’t know what to say. But I know I need to say something.
And it’s important that you know that this post isn’t for people who know that black lives matter. This one is for those of you who are on the fence, who don’t understand, who think the protesters are the problem.
Since you’re here (and have already made a commitment to self-reflecting today) please open your eyes to that which you have been refusing to see, uncover your ears and truly listen. Listen to the voices of black people and protesters crying out, but also listen to yourself and why you’re feeling apprehensive or defensive or angry at people who are seeking justice.
Now that you’re mentally prepared to learn, it’s time that we talked about your implicit bias –– the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Now I know no one wants to admit that they’re inherently racist, so here’s a few examples of how implicit bias can rear its ugly head.
If you have ever:
- Clutched your bag tighter when walking past a black person
- Been nervous driving through low-income areas
- Worried about the safety of a white person living in a predominantly black neighborhood
- Said (and, yes, singing counts) the n-word
- Wondered why a black person was in a particular space
Then you are inherently racist, whether you want to admit it or not. And if any of those points made you defensive, or you instinctively responded “but I’m not racist,” then this one is for you.
But I’m not just here to call you out, this is a space for self-reflection and personal growth. And I promise that I don’t know it all, I’m not perfect, and I don’t have all the answers. Still, since it is absolutely no black person’s job to educate you on the history of racism in America, there are a series of links below for you to continue your reading and reflection there.
It’s important to note that you would’ve learned all of this in elementary school if America didn’t spend so much time teaching revisionist history. But just as Christopher Columbus didn’t sail the ocean blue to befriend the natives, neither did colonizers land in Africa to network.
These links are only a start. It isn’t hard to find articles and literature written by black people, and I highly recommend you seek out more. (And history.com isn’t always enough.)
- The Aftermath of Slavery – Written by William A. Sinclair, who was born a slave in 1858. Reading any excerpt of this will change your perspective, but I recommend you read it front to back.
- General overview of the black experience in America – If you want a quick crash course to remind you how black people have been systemically discriminated against, this is very straightforward.
- What the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t do – This is a conversation with historian Lonnie Bunch. It clears up some confusion of what Lincoln did and didn’t do. You can read or listen.
- Why this isn’t just about George Floyd – Written by Keisha N. Blain, an associate professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, this article explains what elicited the recent protests, and why it isn’t just about one murder or one police officer. I highly recommend you read the whole thing and check out the links Blain has included.
- What happened to Breonna Taylor – Because you need to know her name, too.
I’ll link places you can donate, petitions you can sign, and things you can do below, but there is so much more for you to know. The school to prison pipeline, the criminalization of marijuana, the prison system and the reasons people call it modern day slavery.
So yes, this time the protests are louder, more widespread, and (as you may see it) more violent than in the past. And they aren’t going to stop.
Because white people have been openly executing black people and facing no repercussions for far too long.
I am terrified for the safety of black people in this country. I am worried that black children will continue to grow up in an education system that propagates lies about their history. And I am disgusted by the silence of my white peers.
If you are not outraged by the murder of black people by police officers (and civilians), if you are not sick to your stomach thinking about the children who have been killed because of racist vigilantes, if you are not mourning the death of George Floyd, then you better get thinking. Because you have a decision to make.
You can decide today to be on the right side of history, to stand up and fight, march, donate, sign petitions, and call government officials. Or you can remain complicit in the murder of innocent people.
Right now, it is your job to listen to the concerns of the black community (and not to add your two cents). It is your job to speak up against racism (and not to speak over black voices). It is your job to support those who are working to make a change (and not show up with a white savior complex).
Because this is not black people’s problem, or white people’s problem. This isn’t a debate between liberals and conservatives. This is a human rights issue, and it’s one that we all need to stand behind.
So think about it, learn about it, and make your decision.
It’s up to you, but you better choose wisely.
With love, solidarity, and outrage,