Breaking My Silence

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Yesterday morning after my kids got on the bus I opened up Facebook and was confronted with the story of an unarmed black man with car troubles shot by the police.

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/20/494697359/after-police-killing-of-unarmed-man-tulsa-chief-promises-to-achieve-justice

Normally I don’t watch videos like this because I’m so sensitive to other peoples’ tragedy- my heart can only handle so much. But this time I felt like I needed to watch it. I debated even putting the link here because I don’t want you to feel guilty if you’re like me and just can’t. Don’t feel judged. But do keep reading please, and let yourself feel and think just for a moment about what is right and what we need to do.

Because something needs to change.

I’m a white woman and I have zero fears about being shot by the police or anyone else. It doesn’t even cross my mind as a possibility. Its not something I worry about for my children. I worry they will be abused, do drugs, get abducted, drink bad coffee.

Then I saw the Blackish Episode “Hope” and it changed everything for me (click here for a powerful excerpt from it). I had never thought about how black families have to teach their children what to do when they are out and how to act if confronted by police so that they don’t get shot. What?! Having to worry about your kids every time they leave the house? Telling them if you just put your hands up and comply you will be fine, but then Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Charles Kinsey, and now Terence Crutcher. I think like a Mom now, and this terrifies me. I think I’m finally beginning to understand what white privilege means. Its not just having more opportunity. Its not having to worry. Its feeling safe.

I want to be clear that I am not demonizing the police. I feel safe when I see a police officer. I make it a point to thank them and teach my children to be thankful for them. They put their lives on the line every day to protect us. When my baby was attacked by a dog they were there, when I thought our neighbor was going to psycho kill us after screaming threats I called them, when 9/11 happened we saw many give their lives to save people. I am so thankful for the sacrifices they make.

To me it is more of a heart issue. That for some people when they see a black person the default is to not trust, to be scared, to assume guilt. I’m sitting here crying while I write this because our world is so broken. We are so broken. And people are dying because of it.

Let’s stop placing the blame on everyone else, feeling like this isn’t our problem. My ancestors came to America in the 1700’s. They were poor and didn’t own slaves, at least the ones I know about. But I still feel a sense of responsibility. I need to take part in making things right. I can’t just stand by and blame everyone else. Even if there are people and communities to blame. That doesn’t help anyone. I need to ask myself, what can I do? How can I make a difference here?

Yesterday I listened to a podcast episode of This American Life that I’m asking you to take some time this week to listen to as well. You can listen to it here.

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Its a story that looks at how to close the achievement gap for black students, and looks closely at desegregation as an option that actually worked, until the country gave up on it as too hard after only a short trial. It tells the story of a school district that accidentally went back to desegregation only 3 short years ago and the incredible racism it brought up in the white families of the school the kids were bussed to. I was absolutely appalled to hear the words these parents were saying about someone else’s babies. It wasn’t worth giving these kids a chance at an actual education because it might affect their kids. What makes their kids more important?? Why did their kids deserve a good education but black kids from across town did not? They warned of kids being stabbed, robbed, and the school’s test scores falling behind. None of that happened. None of it. But many of the kids echoed their parents’ racism. Our kids see our hearts don’t they? They will follow where we lead them.

Let’s lead by example.

So I ask you friends, what do we do? How do we change what is broken here? I don’t know the answer, I genuinely don’t. I debated for hours over whether I should even write this. How do I talk about this issue when I’m a white middle class stay at home mom? Is it my place?  I can’t pretend to understand every aspect of this complex issue.  But friends my heart is broken. I felt like staying silent was more harmful than attempting to communicate.

Martin Luther King said once “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” 

This is my attempt to end my silence, to be willing to speak out about it. Let’s start a conversation nationwide, and also in our homes with our friends. It takes both fronts to see real change. Today I will sit down and write a letter to all of my congressional representatives. I still believe in the system, and they listen to the voices of their constituents. I will also be kind, and teach my children to be kind. To not judge people by what they see but get to know who people are. Honestly I believe the most powerful change we can make is by standing up for our brothers and sisters in this world and teaching our children to do the same. To show real love and genuine care. To have sincere empathy and see things from every point of view, not just our own.

Let’s stop blaming each other and work together, link arms, have really conversations, see each other. We can do this friends. I believe in you. I believe in us. I have hope.

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