Black Lives Matter. Please. Say it with me.
While this may be a moment of shock and surprise for some, it is merely another manifestation of centuries of structural and institutionalized racism, of which our country was built upon; this is not new.
"Racism is not getting worse, it's getting filmed." Will Smith.
While we see increasing coverage over acts of vile police brutality and the toll it takes on the lives of black personhood, whether it be the video footage of George Floyd taking his last breaths pinned under the knee of someone employed to protect and serve, Michael Brown being shot by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, or the countless other offenses both broadcast and un-captured by the media's attention, we white skinned Americans will never truly know the experience that people of color, specifically black people endure.
For those protected by their privilege, it can be all too easy to retreat back into said privilege once it's not plastered over social media. For us with the privileged pigmentation, anger, protest and action are a choice; for others it is not.
Silence is violence. White silence is violence; it's allowing systemic injustices targeted at upholding the status quo (WHICH RIGHT NOW INCLUDES THE SENSELESS MURDERS OF BLACK BODIES AT THE HANDS OF OUR SOCIETY) in order to remain in our comfort.
There is no such thing as passivity, particularly in terms of the active force of racism in America. Actions are either racist or antiracist; they either actively bolster or dismantle the country's legacy, policies and laws of the oppression of people of color.
Silence is racist.
Please realize that I am not talking down or riding on a high horse. I too have long benefited from these systems, and have largely been insulated from the education to fully understand the depth and breadth of this issue. This part of history and current norm were not taught in school. Sadly, the truth of our country is not presented in earnest and leaves so many people ignorant on such a monumentally important issue; I would argue the most important issue of our country. Accepting that what is is (though by no means being ok with it or failing to push back), we must take our education into our own hands. We must learn the true past so we can better see the present and shape the future. At the bottom I will list resources that have been wildly helpful and illuminating in this journey of learning for myself; I would love to hear what has been helpful for you as I too ache to learn and be better informed.
Racism is far from dead. Rigidly-defined slavery and Jim Crow may be a thing of the past, but their underlying structures and modus operandi are ever-present, evolving into new, more nuanced forms.
Real change must happen. Real change is not going to be easy. It is going to require releasing greed and dominance for some in order to provide equity and equality for all. Yes, it will include economic reform and may have a direct impact on you and your family. It is no one else's job to make these changes but our own, the benefactors of privilege; it is especially not the oppressed peoples job, yet so often the burden seems to fall therein as comfort prevents progress.
On a Bay Area local news station, W. Kamau Bell reminded us very articulately, this is not a black or people of color problem. It's a problem for all of us. While black people may be hit hardest by the racism in our country, we all suffer from living in an unjust, inequitable society.
Please join me, the hundreds of thousands in the street, the millions around the country in saying Black Lives Matter, and actively working to dismantle oppressive, racist structures in America and rebuilding a better today.
Interested in learning more about race relations in America, and the platforms that we stand upon today? Here are a few books that have been wildly illuminating for me. They include peer-reviewed research, ample data, as well as first hand accounting.
How to Be an Antiracist | Ibram X. Kendi
Stay Woke: A People's Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter | Candis Watts Smith & Tehama Lopez Bunyasi
White Fragility | Robin DiAngelo
The New Jim Crow | Michelle Alexander
Loving: Interracial Intimacy in America and the Threat to White Supremacy | Sheryll Cashin