I Will Not Deny My White Privilege & I Will Not Stop Talking About Racism

A mural of Alton Sterling in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, La. (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

After a pretty restless nights sleep, there are so many things I want to say. In the wake of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, there are so many feelings and emotions that I want to share, but finding the right words is difficult and also feels unjustified, because, though I feel rage, heartache, confusion, and more rage, I cannot pretend that it amounts to even half of what my black friends are feeling right now, and I cannot pretend to actually fully understand the level of fear that they are experiencing.

Right now I’m going to share a story, because I trust myself to rehash it accurately and coherently, rather than just spewing out the raw emotion that has been an underlying current in my psyche for years now, though I’m sure this post will conclude with more than enough spewing…

This story is short and happened a little more than a year ago. I received a text from a longtime friend who, side note, is a black man. At the time he was living in a small, conservative, and predominately white town in Missouri. He said “so I went to Walmart last night..” I sarcastically responded with “cool story bro!” as I waited for more information. “And I came out to my car to find this on the windshield,” a picture followed: a printed flyer, postcard size, on it an eerie sketch of a hooded, classically robed KKK figure. The words “We’re Watching You” were written below. If you’re even only partially connected to your humanity, you’re probably livid right now. I called him, sobbing, telling him to get out of that racist town. His calm tone angered me more. And when I told him that, he explained that getting angry isn’t safe, that the better thing to do is to stay calm and keep your head down, and to do everything possible to draw the least attention to yourself. It’s hard for me to write this without reliving the feelings all over again. Tearful rage. But still, I remind myself that I am on the outside of this experience, I am not the victim here. So wipe your tears and speak a little more loudly, Julia. 

13435325_10201561694839887_8124594068178799358_nAs a white person, I can never pretend to know the fear that lies within a black or brown person living in this country, though I can FULLY share the anger. For me to sit here and try to relay my emotions is almost unfair to the people who are the actual victims. But I am sick. I am sick of hearing people deny racism, deny police brutality, and deny their own white privilege. I am sick of hearing that there “needs to be a conversation” when this conversation has been happening for way too long now, while way too many innocent black people are murdered. I am sick of seeing not enough people express rage. And amidst all of this disgraceful turmoil, Taylor Swift still somehow manages to make headlines about her new relationship. What’s actually important here?!

I cannot pretend to act like I know of a solution, but I know damn well that something needs to change. I will never know what it’s like to be a black parent with a black child, having to have the conversation about what to do and how to act if you’re ever stopped by, or JUST NEAR police officers. Comply, comply, comply… I will never know the fear that awakens within a black person upon being pulled over. If one group of human people cannot get pulled over by the cops without fear that it may be the last thing that they do, then none of us should be able to relax. NONE of us should be okay with not speaking up about it. So when you choose to stay silent about the truth that racism is REAL and not enough is being done to stop it, you are not “not adding fuel to the fire”, you are the problem.

I will not deny my white privilege. I will not deny the struggle of black people in America. I will not pretend to know what it’s like when the innocence of your children is robbed by the reality that the people who are here to protect and serve are abusing power and are taking innocent lives. I will not ignorantly try to say that I understand what you’re feeling, but I promise to share your anger. I promise to be an ally. I promise to use my white privilege as an aid to you. If I see police and POC interactions, I will stick around, be a second set of eyes, and record it if necessary. I will never stop talking about racism and I promise to listen if I forget my own privilege, and my activism comes off as self-serving. I will listen, but I will stand with you. I will have the conversation when it’s uncomfortable and I will use my voice to educate. I will fight with you, I will cry with you, and I will never stay silent.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King Jr.