On the night that Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a white man full of hate, my entire world flipped upside down. Up until that moment, I’d naively believed that racism, for the most part, was a thing of the past. It was only four years ago, but I can still remember where I was when I heard the news. I can still recall the chill that ran down my spine. Gone was the secure world I’d been living in.
That same feeling crashed into me again two summers ago when Michael Brown was fatally shot and killed by another white man. I felt sick to my stomach and completely helpless as the world around me erupted. The #BlackLivesMatter movement began, and with it all of my preconceptions about racial relations here in the States were deconstructed. Late nights on Twitter and long sessions on Google provided me with an entirely new education; I learned about white privilege and how my experience growing up here in the northern state of Connecticut has been extremely different from someone my age growing up in a southern state.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve made a lot of new friends on Twitter—people just like me, with similar dreams and needs, but because of our skin colors, we’ve had vastly different experiences. I’ve never been treated any differently because I happen to have been born white. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have other people assume I’m dangerous because my skin is dark. I have, however, experienced unkind treatment because I’m a woman, because I’m disabled, because I have a mental illness, and because I’m bisexual. But I’ve never feared for my life because of my skin color.
Though I’ve been loud on social media, doing my best to amplify the #BlackLivesMatter movement and educate others, I’ve still been mostly quiet about all of this. Most of my white family members and friends don’t exactly get it. After all, we grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut—a city with only about a 50% white population. Racial relations here are good. I mean, there are some assholes, but they’re vastly outnumbered. It’s not out of the norm to see an interracial family or to go to the mall and see a diverse group of kids shopping together. Growing up, cliques in my schools were separated by lifestyle and music preference, not skin color. News about racial tension always seemed far away to me.
I’ve also been quiet here on this blog. It’s not usually acceptable for authors to get political. We’re expected to be neutral, to keep our mouths shut and just write our damn books. It’s a big no no, because political issues are naturally very dividing and tender topics. Here’s the thing, though: I don’t see human issues as political issues. Keeping quiet is what got us into this situation. By not talking about these things, we’ve allowed them to continue happening. We’ve allowed a racist, sexist, bigoted man to become the Republican presidential nominee. By not standing up and saying “This is not okay,” we’ve allowed two more slaughters: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
The longer we don’t talk about this, the more Freddie Grays, Sandra Blands, and Tamir Rices we’ll have.
Because the truth is, we have a severe racial issue here in the States. Now, I’m not saying police officers deserve to be killed; there are many fantastic men and women who serve and protect. But that’s just it; they’re sworn to serve and protect, not seek and destroy, as my brother-in-law said on Facebook. Police officers are trained to disarm a person suspected of being armed—not to shoot to kill. It is statistically proven that white people have an inherent fear of black people. Those same white people will vehemently deny it, but will be the first to cross the street or avert their eyes when a black man passes them on the sidewalk.
Police have shot and killed at least 136 black people this year. Those are just the ones we know about. That’s not even counting violent racial crimes committed by white civilians. This shit bothers me. It deeply disturbs me. It literally keeps me lying awake at night, my heart pounding because I’m fucking scared. It is a major problem that we cannot afford to ignore. As I said on my personal Facebook yesterday, “I share because I don’t want my black friends or family to be the next ones found hanging or shot dead in front of their families.”
This problem is out of control.
And it will continue to be until we do something about it.
We need to stand up and say NO MORE. This is not a political or black issue. This is a crime against humanity. It is an American problem that will ripple into the rest of the world if it continues unchecked.
Our world is hanging off a precipice right now. Either you can be part of the crowd that shoves it over the edge and into the fire, or you can pull on the rope with the rest of us, trying to yank it back from danger.
Here in the States, we’ve done so much damage to people of color. We’ve pillaged and stolen their land. We’ve traveled overseas, stormed peaceful tribes, and enslaved their people. We’ve segregated and desecrated. We’ve murdered and raped. And then we’ve turned our backs and closed our eyes and ears.
We claim to be a land of the free, but no one is free when we live like this.
We’re still a young country. There’s still time to change. It’s not too late. It’s almost too late, but not yet.
But it starts with opening our eyes, unplugging our ears, and saying “Enough.”
Use Your Voice
- Join the movement and get involved with Campaign Zero. This is an accountability program started by #BlackLivesMatter activists Deray McKesson and Johnetta Elzie. Johnetta, by the way, was recently featured in O: The Oprah Magazine.
- Amplify #BlackLivesMatter voices. This is as simple as retweeting and sharing posts on social media, or joining a chapter in your area.
- Educate yourself. Black people and other people of color have been systemically oppressed in the States for decades. History has been twisted to serve political purposes. The last couple of years have been eye opening for me as I’ve studied black history. This article and this one are great places to start. I also highly recommend watching PBS’s Black Panther Party documentary.
- Speak up. When your white friends say something damaging or untrue about people of color, correct them. Saying nothing is just as toxic.
Solidarity matters more now than ever. We can no longer afford to remain silent.