28 Sep Why I’ve Been Silent on Charlotte
When the world seems to be falling apart, what are we supposed to do? When the news is filled with murders and protests, what do we tell our children? When our nine-year-old asks, “Mommy, what happened in Charlotte?”, what are we supposed to say?
I don’t know. I have way more questions than I have answers, and my silence on it all has been a sign of my hesitance. I haven’t known what to say or how to say it, so I’ve stayed silent. But silence does nothing to make anything better. And I don’t want my silence to be complicity.
Regardless of your thoughts on police shootings and the guilt or innocence of those gunned down, you cannot deny that our country is facing enormous race issues. You can have a million opinions on why this is so, and you can pronounce a side that is right and a side that is wrong, but first you must be willing to admit that a huge problem exists. It is real, and it matters, and pretending it away or just hoping it will get better is never going to work. People are killing and people are dying, and race is part of the problem. People are hurting and people are scared, and race is part of the problem. People are judging and people are condemning, and race is part of the problem.
Race is part of the problem, and so are we.
I told someone recently that I have stayed silent partly because I feel my whiteness disqualifies me from taking part in the discussion. I don’t know what African-Americans feel or how they’ve been treated, and I don’t know what it’s like to worry whenever a cop pulls you over. I don’t know, and I can’t. But that doesn’t mean I can’t say, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for how you’ve been treated, and I’m sorry for what you’ve been called. I’m sorry I rarely stop to consider what it’s like for you, and I’m sorry this is the reality of your life. I’m so very sorry. And I want to know more. I want to hear what your experience is. I want to know what life has been like. I want to know how I can help, and I want to help us as a country do better. I want you to know I care.”
My whiteness might limit my perspective and inhibit my understanding, but it does not prevent me from showing compassion and seeking relationship.
So much of the conversation lately has started with the words, “Well, if they just…” People have used this both for those shot and those shooting. I’m not discounting that on both sides if people had done something differently, there could have been different outcomes, BUT THIS DOES NOTHING TO HELP PEOPLE WHO ARE LIVING IN THE REALITY OF WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED, NOT IN THE ‘JUSTS’ OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN.
What happened did happen, and speculating does not change the reality of deadly decisions. Our aim ought to be to learn from what went wrong, to educate everyone on how to change the coming future, and to be people of compassion in the process of change.
Instead of compassion, I see condemnation. Instead of conversation-starters, I see racism-spewers. Instead of understanding, I see dismissal. I see division and ignorance and people who assume they know it all – on both “sides.” But no one knows all the answers, and no one has the cure. There is no easy fix, and there is no solution in the venom I see people spouting – on both “sides.”
When it’s easier to ignore the problem, let’s bring it to the forefront. When it’s easier to remain “us” and “them,” let’s unite as human beings. When it’s easier to see through our own experience, let’s try to see the other “side.” When it’s easier to dismiss what we don’t understand, let’s seek even harder to make sense of it.
Let’s be the generation that says, “Yes, this is hard. There is right and there is wrong, and there are moments when it’s hard to tell which is which. There are good guys and bad guys, and sometimes we really get them mixed up. This is a years-old problem, and though we might not solve it overnight, we’re at least going to try. We’re going to talk to people different from ourselves. We’re going to have tough conversations – but we’re actually going to talk instead of just yell. We’re going to seek understanding instead of seeking to be right, and we’re going to do whatever we can to figure this thing out. This means we’ll have to consider education, poverty, profiling, and unemployment, but we’ll do this because the alternative is self-destruction. We’re going to re-examine our policies and reconsider our training, but it’s worth it if things get better. We’re not going to shy away from this, even though it’s hard. We’re not going to avoid conversations just because we’re uncomfortable. We’re not going to continue with the status-quo just because it’s there. We are going to tackle this issue now.”
Do I know exactly what this will look like? No. But I know it’s necessary. Do I know how long it will take? No. But I know it’s worth it. Do I know just where to start? No. But I know I must.
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