I follow several people probably better equipped to address the unbelievable injustices currently perpetrated in America. I am not a person of color, but I truly try to be sensitive to all people and their individual experiences. I am not always successful, but I reflect a lot and correct and apologize when I can.
I had an epiphany tonight. I have been following the tweets of others about the protests in Baltimore. My husband and I were also discussing the occurrences: the rioting, looting, and whatever other labels the media slaps on these events. Of course we discussed morality, whether different events were “right” or “wrong”: Is arson okay but looting not?
I have a hard time letting philosophical ideas go until I make personal sense of them, and this continued with me until I realized this: Who cares if I agree or not? No one needs me to benevolently bestow my blessings or to condemn anything. Who cares what I think?
Now, stay with me. Here is why this epiphany matters. I am white. The best way I can help is to not stay silent about the inexcusable behavior of, hopefully, a minority of law enforcement officers and government officials. I can also help by keeping these inequalities alive in dialogue and conversation. I mostly do this by seeing what others are saying and quoting or re-tweeting their wiser words. Lastly, and most importantly, I can shut my ignorant mouth and listen.
I need to hear what, in this case, Black people are saying. Why are they frightened to leave their homes? Why are they afraid to get pulled over? Why do they run from cops? Why do they have to teach their babies how to deal with other races and policemen differently than what other races teach their children? Why are they angry and frustrated and rioting and looting? Why? There are reasons, people! Not stupid, surface reasons. Not excuses like failure to pay child support or prior records—those are symptoms. What are the roots?
Here’s what I need to do: I need to shut up. I need to look people in the eyes (whether they are Black, Hispanic, LGBT, women, homeless, anyone forced into Otherness), acknowledge that individual—really see and feel his/her humanity—and LISTEN to his/her story. I will not pass judgments. This is not about me or my opinions. I only need to know how I can help and not hinder. This is about the future of our society. This is about real people who have futures, if those in power will stop fighting against equality.
So, I am sorry for my failings. I am listening….