Look in the mirror, White Americans.
Updated: Apr 19
As I am writing this, the US is caught up in another racial wave. This seems to happen more now because everyone has a camera on their phone. The violence towards Black and Brown people may not have increased, but it can no longer be hidden from the public – dismissed as justified, warranted, or necessary. We now see it all, replayed thousands of times a day on demand. Ahmaud Arbery dead – hunted down by two white men while jogging. George Floyd dead – held down with a knee on his neck by a Minneapolis police officer for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile – all dead.
Lives are ruined. Americans are outraged. Politicians demand justice. People protest. Promises are made. “Social media activists” call for change. And then nothing.
I have talked with so many different people over the last few days trying to understand and to help give any ounce of courage. I want to listen and really hear what they are saying. I want to feel it all – the pain, the suffering, anger and confusion. But I am left with a disturbance in my soul. Why are we all acting like we care now? Why now?
Where are we when Black and Brown kids are living in substandard conditions, housed together with little hope of escaping poverty? Where are we when a single, Black mother needs helping raising her three kids on her own? Where are we for the Black man wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to prison for the rest of his life? Where are we?
Racism is systemic. It is built into the very fabric of our society – redlining in housing, struggling schools dependent on taxes from low-income areas, discriminatory loan practices, and so much more. Why does that not cause outrage?
Do we have to be splattered with the blood of a Black man before we take action?
It’s easy to sit back and call Ahmaud’s and George’s murderers racists. It gives us a way to separate us from them. I’m talking to you now, White Americans. We all want to believe we treat everyone equally, and we couldn’t possibly be racist like “those people.” But guess what? Every single one of us has benefited from a racist system – even if we did not consciously ask for privilege. We don’t have to – that’s the point.
Did you move to an affluent part of town, so your children could attend “better schools?” Privilege. Can you go for a run in a hoodie? Privilege. Sit in a coffee shop without ordering anything? Privilege. If you are able to go through your day without making sure you do not appear too angry or too intimidating or pose a threat, you, my friend, have privilege.
What does privilege have to do with racism? Plenty. Our privilege makes us complacent. We can choose to tune-in to racism when and where we want. Our Black and Brown sisters and brothers cannot.
Racism is real, and it’s here now. But we cannot let someone off the hook or divert from the larger issue by calling them a racist. It is not enough. Hold the individual accountable for their actions, their attitudes, and their beliefs – not all white people and not all police officers. I, as a white person, denounce all of these murderers – they do not represent me, but not because they are racist, but because they are horrible human beings. And I will use my privilege to scream out, "No more!"
I will separate myself from these murderers. I am not aligned with the police officer who has no regard for people of color, or the men in Florida, or any of the others. They have broken the social contract I subscribe to. And I stand with all my Black and Brown brothers and sisters to demand a different way, a fairer way – a way that signals to those around us that this time we White Americans will not go back to our comfortable lives and wait for the next wave of racial outrage to hit us.
Our privilege comes from a racist system, and that is what we have to work against, fight, and change. We can only do that if we all take a look in the mirror and make a change.
“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I am angry. But I am also going to do something. I will use my privilege to eliminate my privilege. And I hope you will join me and stay by my side and those of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, as uncomfortable as it may be.