For a while, I stayed out of the conversation regarding #GeorgeFloyd, not out of fear, but out of exhaustion. I try my best to be honest with all of you, and the honest truth is, I’m numb. I’m desensitized. I have a hard time connecting with what’s going on because I’ve seen it so many times before.
Year after year, month after month, the same incident happens. We see the same response, and the same lack of action from our government and our law enforcement. We hashtag names every month, and go back to our normal lives until it's time for another hashtag. Arguments ensue on Facebook and Instagram, we become even more divided as a nation, and then we do it all over again.
I can't be the only one who is tired of it.
If I'm being completely honest, I also don't feel like this is my fight. I believe that change will only come, when these conversations are had in white homes. When white people have the courage to stop their family members from making a casually racist statement at the dinner table or explain to their white friends why saying the "N" word in their favorite rap song isn't okay. White people in this country have the power to stop racism in its tracks, significantly more than black people do.
But it's more than that. It's also about surrounding yourself with a diverse friend group or social circle. Asking yourself why you have no black friends. Or why you've never felt it necessary to go out of your way to make black friends. Why you never consider dating a black person. Why you don't view black women as desirable. Why you cross the street when a black man is approaching or clutch your purse tighter when you see black teenage boys. Why you think that if black men didn't wear baggy pants, they wouldn't be targeted as much. And why you see no issue with the lack of black representation in your favorite romantic comedies. Why white men disproportionately are allotted the "mental health" explanation to justify their crimes, while black men are called thugs.
It's about asking yourself, as a white person, if you've done enough to educate yourself on why things are the way they are in this country. Why you're the standard for everything; beauty, intelligence, good behavior. Why our prison systems are overwhelmingly filled with black men and just so happen to be a private industry. Or if you've simply relied on the American education system to tell you everything you need to know.
On top of being tired of the repetitiveness of these events, I’m also so sick and tired of my Blackness being questioned because of how I choose to handle or respond to certain issues.
I've never been an overly emotional person. I keep my emotions close to the chest, and I try my best to remain level headed in heated situations. But just because I'm not screaming on social media, that doesn't mean that I don't care. That doesn't mean that thinking about what's going on doesn't build up a little ball in my throat. That doesn't mean that I'm not well aware of the injustices that occur on a daily basis.
I've experienced them firsthand.
I've experienced being "randomly selected" at the airport 4 times in the same day. I've experienced a little girl in kindergarten telling me she "doesn't play with brown people." I was five. I've experienced the micro-aggressions of being called an Oreo in school, getting in trouble for things I wasn't doing, and being followed in a Payless with my mom when I was nine. I've experienced severe anxiety the year after Oscar Grant was killed when my brother was going out on New Year's Eve. I've experienced being singled out at Miss California to talk about affirmative action because I was the only black girl in the room.
I have a vast knowledge of what it's like to experience racism. And those examples don't even scratch the surface.
I know I'm Black. I'm proud to be Black. I know I'm Black. I'm proud to be Black.
I don't know how many more ways I have to say it.
What happened to George Floyd is awful. It's horrendous. It's deplorable.
White supremacy is awful, horrendous and deplorable.
If you're a person with friends who defend white supremacy, you're part of the problem. If you're a white person who has never tried to be friends with a black person or doesn't have black friends, you're part of the problem. If you've never read a book from a black author or if you put your personal success above obvious injustice, you're part of the problem.
The fact is this, The United States of America was built on a foundation of racism. This country would not exist, were it not for the belief that darker complected people are inferior. It started that way, grew that way, and it's going to take centuries before we can wipe that mentality away for good.
I've seen so many posts and hashtags from people saying "This needs to stop."
And of course it does.
But in the very wise words of my partner, "This needed to stop 300 years ago."
In the meantime, give people space to learn, grow, and figure it out.
Don't shame people who don't emote the same way you do.
Don't shame people for not knowing.
Don't shame people for asking questions that you think they should already have the answer to.
Don't shame people for not speaking up about something that brings up a lot of pain.
Don't shame people for not being as "woke" as you.
If they are even asking, that's a great first step.
None of this will stop, until we can have informed and open conversations with people who don't look like us, free of judgement.
Also ask yourself, what are YOU doing to make the world a better, safer place. Are you just ingesting the media, at home, seething with anger?
Or are you volunteering with organizations that are dedicated to making change? Are you organizing meetings to have discussions about race relations with people who might not otherwise have the opportunity? Are you donating to charities that are dedicated to the dismemberment of white supremacy? Are you having conversations with people who don't already agree with you?
Or are you sitting at home, making social media posts?
There comes a time where emotion isn't enough. You have to take those emotions and turn it into action. And until you do, don't attack people for not emoting in the same way.
I've had several conversations with white people in my dm's who genuinely don't understand some of the complexities of racism in America, and it's always ended on a positive and encouraging note. They learned something, I learned something, and we were both more informed people because of it.
Overall, the emotions I've been feeling over the last few days have been sad, fearful, shamed and confused. I have a heart. And it aches for all of the suffering in the world. It hurts me to my core when my levels of compassion are questioned, especially on something that is so close to my heart.
I don't know what I'm supposed to do. What I'm expected to do. All I can do is pray and do my part to continue putting action behind my words. Continue having discourse. Continue spreading light in our very dark world.
Be kind to yourselves in this time. You know your heart.
George Floyd deserved better. The slaves deserved better. Ahmaud deserved better. We deserve better.