Every time I have an articulate thought about how to make sense of all the shootings and violence and public hatred in America right now, it disappears into confusion. I have written my response over and over again in my head, but nothing feels right. I almost had a panic attack when I opened my computer to write this post, because I feel compelled to say something, but everything feels inadequate. I am filled with grief, and also with shame to know that I will probably never feel the same fear that minorities feel when they walk out their doors into public spaces. I rode my bike home from work last night, an hour-long commute along mostly empty streets, with varying degrees of lighting. I worried a bit about being raped or assaulted. I usually do when I am alone at night in deserted areas. I wondered, then, if this is the same fear that black and brown people carry with them, always. And then I wondered if it was presumptuous of me to even make that comparison. I am white. I live in a homogeneous suburb. I work in a job that is segregated (white people in the front of the restaurant; everyone else in the back; bussers are the one exception to the color barrier). Am I complicit in this mess? Do I have a right to call out for a new structure, considering the parameters of my life?
I am living in confusion right now. The news doesn’t help; I just feel more sadness, more shame. I do not understand hating someone so intensely you feel compelled to shoot them. I do not understand why police use guns as the first line of defense. Police, as supposed arbiters of peace and justice on a community scale should also be masters at mindfulness. Their job is not to kill innocent people, and in this country everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Routine traffic stops are not high stress situations. They should not be treated as such; nor should civilians live in fear that they will be shot to death for a missing taillight; for selling CDs or loose cigarettes; for walking down the street; for looking too suspicious; for having a reaction time slower than a police officer would like.
Centuries of oppression, systemic racism, unconscious and conscious bias all contribute to these horrendous killings, as does a lack of officer training.
I do not know how to reconcile my white identity with the events in the news. I do not know the correct response, or the correct next steps. I will continue to shine light in my own very small corner of the world as I figure out how to live with integrity.
Below are a few responses to the current tragedies, much more articulate than my own.
- Death in Black and White: All of the reasons being white feels very complicated, as outlined by a black man who knows our culture of oppression is at the root of this current crisis. It was an uncomfortable read at times, as I do not like being lumped in with the perpetrators of violence. Still, discomfort is necessary to create change, and I hope this will provide some inspiration for me as I move forward.
- This is what white people can do to support #BlackLivesMatter: A list of ways to work from within whiteness to create change and lend support to a truly progressive movement.
- Deafening Silence: White silence and Alton Sterling: A indictment to white people to end the silence about race and to call for justice. Whenever a white person chooses to remain silent about racial violence, the author contends, permission for continued violence is granted. I agree. Anglo privilege has created this mess, it is our duty to call for cultural restructuring.
- 30+ Resources to help white Americans learn about race and racism: Finally, a thorough list of resources to better understand the history and culture of racism in America. I haven’t begun to read through these yet, but they are high on my list of articles read over the coming weeks. As passionate as I feel about equality, I know I have a lot left to learn and to implement in my life.
Finally, because I need some happy diversions in order to process the violence, here is a lovely profile of vegan strongman Patrik Baboumian for CNN’s series on environmental activists. And an interesting history of modern eyeglasses.
Have a good and safe weekend, everyone.