Please, say something.
To all the Americans and to all you people who have lived in America, at any time in your life.
To all you people who’ve traveled to or live in America, who have enjoyed the comforts of its “freedom”, its beaches, malls, neon lighted hotels, its beef, potatoes, pizza, hot dogs, and fries. To all who have traveled anywhere, actually, where people of color and black people exist. To all who normally post photos of your beautiful lives, as I do...
To all, who over the years shared on social media about travel, birthdays, school graduations, etc., as I have... but still haven’t shared an image or said a word about the murder of an innocent black man, the daddy of a little girl, with a neck under the knee of a white police officer that was also shared on social media for all of us to view (even if you did not)....while a crowd watched in Minneapolis... Please, I have something to say to you—
I am not judging you. I am white. I’m not a tiny bit better than any American who has lived with privilege. I only have my experience, my privilege via my color, education, my faith, my ability to love. I only have this bit of time to say something. I know that I can never say or do enough. And I'm sorry.
But please, read about racism, learn about its pervasiveness, it's history, our part in it, and say something. Post a photo or article every day that resists racism, that proclaims that black lives matter. Show that you are not just someone who accepts repression. Say you are anti-racist.
Because right now, everybody around you hears and sees your silence.
I repeat, I cannot judge you. I am a white, upper class woman living in ridiculous, silent comfort. Judgment is a cycle leading only to our awareness of our own ridiculousness, our own messiness, our shortcomings, cowardice, our wrong words, our flaws. It leads downward.
But still I hear your silence. And I hear what you might be thinking in it:
I am not black, you think, if you are not. Even as some black people (rightly) tell us to shut up, now. Our silence brutalized them for centuries to this point. And so that fury and resentment is justified. Allow it. We shouldn’t speak over those black people who choose to speak up, but we should listen, reflect, validate, support. Sheree Atcheson, an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion Leader wrote several suggestions in her piece in Forbes on actions to take for white people. But mostly she stresses that white people like me do need to talk, openly.
I don’t want to risk harm, you think. But the black men, women and children who aren’t certain if they are safe in white “safe” neighborhoods feel afraid to walk with the family dog, to travel around America. They risk harm because of racism, daily.
I’m white. My words don’t matter, you think. But they matter enough for you to use those words to work and/or to live a comfortable life on texts, the internet and social media. They matter enough for you to have asked for what you want, to get to this moment... Do you want innocent dads choked by policemen while people helplessly watch?
I’m not a racist, you think. But we all are, I think. We have all allowed racism to flourish. Some of us have even denied its existence. Therefore we have all participated in the racist treatment of the black population for centuries in America.
I’m not affected, you think. I’m sorry to say this, but this thought means that you are more racist than you thought. You’re not alone though. We're all more racist than we thought.
I don’t want to be pressured into saying something until I’m ready, you might think. But George Floyd wasn’t ready when he sat in his car before a "public defender" murdered him. Breonna Taylor wasn’t ready when she lay in bed before being shot be police. Ahmaud Arbery wasn’t ready when he went for a run that day in Atlanta and never came home.
I might say the wrong thing, you think. Yes, you will. But saying it wrong can help you identify your shortcomings. It will will help you learn how to say it better. Mistakes are supposed to show us how to become better human beings.
I might be judged, you think. Please go back to the beginning. Those who judge will only find what needs to be fixed in their own tiny hearts.
You will fail. You will be judged and criticized for anything you say, as I will be for what I write here.
But I’m certain that your silence, my silence, America’s collective silence is the very black skinned path that we have tread upon, slipping over black backs with our nice shoes, over black repression to get to our safe homes, our privilege, our comfort, to this point in time. In silence, we became the racism. In silence we became the racists.
What can you do? Say something.
Respond to what I’ve written here with your claps, your ideas, your writing, your signs on the street, your posts, your ideas for how to become an anti-racist. Join a Facebook Group, or another BLM group in your area like the Action Together Network in Zurich where I am a member. I suggest that if you are on social media, you post something daily, in between your beautiful posts, that the world still needs about all that is good in your life. Post about this cause between your "everything is wonderful" posts. Show that you're grateful for what you've got by showing how much you care about those people who have less, who might not be like you, at all. You care about the marginalized. You care about the black people who die under the foot of a white guy with a bunch of other white guys and their guns.
I am no better than you. I am only a messenger for my own shame, and for the disenfranchised, marginalized people I've known in my 50 years, mostly through my volunteer work but also through simply looking around and listening. Those who have been trapped under my privilege and yours are the ones who have somehow managed to still try to teach me courage, wisdom, strength, humility, faith and the ability to say something.
We must say something, even if it means our foolish, awkward words. Our discomfort. We can handle it. Look at all the beautiful black lives ended, who have come before this moment. We must say something for them.