I have spent a long time not talking about Black Lives Matter. I have spent years in silence while black men and women were killed by police officers. This is largely because I have been privileged and complacent. When Ferguson happened I was a busy college student and I just didn’t bother to do much digging, even though I was in a contemporary media class that gave me ample opportunity. When Sandra Bland and Freddy Gray died at the hands of police I read the headlines and thought, “that’s really fucked up and really sad.” I considered going to a Black Lives Matter protest in my town, but I had plans that night. I watched these events unfold and I thought to myself how unfortunate it all was, but I did nothing. I said nothing. Now, as a writer, I am ashamed that I didn’t read the news coverage. I’m ashamed that I didn’t educate myself on the true state of race relations in this country. I’m ashamed that I didn’t say something.
Another truth is I never felt I had any place saying anything. Every time I heard about another person of color being murdered I thought, “Am I allowed to talk about this since I’m white?” I thought, “I don’t know what these communities are experiencing so I shouldn’t mouth off without knowing what I’m talking about.” I thought, “I’m not educated enough to be having these conversations, so I should just shut up and let the more educated people have these discussions.” These may seem like stupid thoughts. The obvious answer the whole time has been to educate myself and speak out in an intelligent manner. That’s where fear and complacency come in. I fear that my whiteness precludes me from the conversation. I am afraid that I will say something stupid and people will think I am am stupid and hate me. I am afraid I will offend people and people won’t like me. I let my fear drive my complacency and I say nothing. I become complicit by being silent.
No more. When Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered by police I spoke out. I spoke out late, but I collected the news coverage and wrote my own article for Blasting News. I took to Twitter and Facebook and started to voice my feelings and opinions. I didn’t try to pass them off as anything more than my own thoughts and feelings, but I decided it was time to have a voice. I want to be clear that this does not make me special. I do not deserve praise for adding my voice to the thousands that have already spoken much more articulately than me. I do not deserve a cookie or brownie points for making some status updates or writing an article. I am only doing what thousands of braver people have already done.
A lot of people are late to the conversation about Black Lives Matter and the racism that is pervasive in this country and especially in our policing systems. A lot of us have been complacent for a long time. I apologize for that complacency and I want to know what I can do to enact actual change, beyond typing words on a screen. I am completely aware that I am still ignorant to a lot of the race relations theory and a lot of the rhetoric. I am not yet qualified to make the arguments that others can and have.
What I’m asking for is time and help to get up to speed. I have seen many people who have been involved in these movements for a long time questioning people who are jumping on the bandwagon now, as well they should. We all should have been with this from the start, but we weren’t. The point is we’re here now and we want to help. We want to make change. Please, please help us get up to speed.