I, like you, am heartbroken about what happened to Michael Brown, and what’s happened to so many others. I have read the posts, watched the videos, and prayed for justice and peace. It is so sickening that it’s hard to sleep. I have so much to learn about how I should even think about these tragedies and I am choosing to listen rather than express my opinions about most of this issue.
The part I do feel I understand well enough to speak to is the invalidating commentary by my fellow white people.
People of privilege, aka white people, aka my friends and family,
I know you might think your comments are harmless, or maybe you think it is fun to debate or “play the devil’s advocate,” but please keep in mind that in a land not so far away, people…teenagers even, are actually dying over this.
You might mean well but many your comments have the distinct flavor of someone who is not willing to listen and entertain the thought that perhaps it really is “that bad.” At best, you are coming off as ignorant, at worst, racist.
By saying, “you do not have all of the facts” we are essentially saying “I don’t believe that you are smart enough to know what is happening right in front of your face.”
By saying, “this isn’t a race issue” we are saying “I know more than black people about what it feels like to be black.”
By saying, “I’m sad about this too but…” we are saying that there is really an ending to this sentence that rectifies a mother losing a child.
By saying, “let’s see what the autopsy says” we are saying, “I need a white doctor to tell me what really happened because I’m not going to believe the eye witness accounts of a bunch of black kids.”
By posing a hypothetical scenario about a white victim being shot without cause, you are just confused.
By saying, “it’s a lot better these days than it used to be” we are not acknowledging the current pain that racism causes.
By blaming the victim, we are- well, blaming a victim.
By saying, “this discussion doesn’t really apply to me,” we are saying black people are not as human as you.
As shameful as it is, I understand it. Who wants to face the fact that a black teen got shot by a white police officer for no apparent reason? Not I. Who wants to admit in their hearts that this is not an isolated incident? I’d rather grasp at some hope that the world is just. I’d rather turn away and make-believe that racism is dead, because I have that option. It is much more pleasant to think of the atrocities unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri as some big misinterpretation of the facts than to really listen and believe that people of color actually might know what they are experiencing.
So, for what it’s worth:
To the people of color;
I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’ve had to be so loud to get our attention. I’m sorry that another beautiful adolescent had to die to make us notice that you are oppressed. I’m sorry that no one is listening. I’m sorry that no one believes your experiences. I’m sorry that this is still happening. I’m sorry for the ignorant, invalidating, and racist comments you’ve had to deal with on top of everything else. I’m sorry that I’ve turned a blind eye to your struggle. I hear you, I believe you, I stand with you for justice. You deserve way better.