When a national headline is about someone you knew, something inside of you stirs. And it’s more than pity. Way more than just sadness. It’s like that nagging headache that just won’t go away. It’s an endless loop of questions playing over and over: “Was it an accident?” “How did this happen?” “Did they know each other?” “Was it because he was black or because she was honestly scared?” “Will we ever know the truth?”
And it’s caused enough discomfort within me that I’ve decided something. When blatant injustice occurs, you can only do one thing: act. No matter if the apartment door was ajar or not. No matter if Botham and Amber knew each other or not. No matter what was in his apartment once searched. A man was killed unjustly in his home. The same injustice as if someone walked through your door this very instant as you quietly read these very words and fired a weapon at you as you sit in your chair.
This has to stop. And it starts with me. A young white woman who wants to understand and change this narrative because honestly I’m just beat down hearing about it. It saddens me that the disparity between white people and people of color feels like this endless abyss that is becoming more distrusting, more dark, and more insurmountable. And it keeps happening. Over. And over.
So here it is: I’m on a quest to better understand what white privilege fully means, where it exists, what it looks like, how it got there, how I experience it, and how I can stop perpetuating it. To lay down my defenses and my desire to push back in frustration. To stop denying it and just HEAR PEOPLE OUT. This isn’t a conservative or liberal or Christian or secular effort. It’s a human one. How do I understand minority groups in a way that values them as PEOPLE? Am I capable of shedding the worry of, “How will people perceive me if I express concern over this?” long enough to actually be a stepping stone to the solution? Is how I respond to this crucial time in history something that my kids would be proud of?
What about you? How are you responding? Are your efforts defined by your social media statuses....and that’s kind of it? Or are you like me and melt into the “non-confrontational” zone, while quietly reading the dialogue between the more passionate people from your phone screen and scrolling on?
No matter what your comfort zone is or what kind of responder you are, I challenge you to try two things:
1. Make one goal for yourself in understanding what is happening here. Intentionally interact with someone else’s thoughts and experiences completely foreign to you. A person. A book. A blog. A show/documentary. Ask someone if you can talk openly and ask them questions safely. Two resources I recommend are: “The Racial Wealth Gap” from the documentary series Explained on Netflix and a book called I’m Still Here—Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.
2. While completing said goal, decide beforehand that you will listen without deciding whether or not what is being stated is true or false. Listen to the person knowing that despite whether it is true or it isn’t, it is REAL for them. And that is what makes it worth listening to. Their perception is as real to them as my perception is to me. They believe it is true just as much as you might believe that it isn’t. Decide to listen first and remind yourself to back down and just listen when your defenses start to surface. The goal is to hear. Not respond. Not yet.
Don’t worry, doing these two things doesn’t make you a social justice fanatic or “more liberal.” But it may change your perspective. Which might spread to your inner circles. Which could change your neighborhoods. Which just might save the life of an African American man sitting in his apartment.
I’m committed to being better. Let’s talk. What should I read/watch next? If you already frequently engage with the challenges above, what is your next step?