Since the events at Mizzou and the posts that have been popping up on my facebook, I have been struggling with whether and how to speak publicly about this event. I have been reminded by my friends that to be silent on an issue is to perpetuate it, which reminded me that when Ferguson occurred I was silent because I didn’t really understand the issue; I thought it was better to be silent and observe before making a judgment call. But when I finally came to understand the significance of those events and others surrounding the threats black people face around our country, I realized I was catching up to the movement too late. I don’t want to repeat the same mistake; I want to be proactive about speaking and acting on the side of justice. At the same time, however, I realized that just copying the facebook posts of my friends would be more to make myself look like I was not complicit, like I was on the “right side” of history, but it would not really require anything of me nor would it make any difference, so perhaps it would be better not to say anything but rather try to continue working to combat racism when I see it in my own personal life.
However, this post spoke to me and I want to share it, because it captures some of the feelings I have been coming to have over this past year. I am shocked by many of the blatantly racist events that have been happening at universities across our country. But more moving to me is I am sad to begin to realize the danger that some of my close friends are in, the caution they must take and the fear they must feel, because of the color of their skin. Earlier this year I was driving with a Hispanic male friend and he mentioned that he doesn’t keep his car’s documents in his glove compartment, and when I asked why, he said because it could be dangerous for him to reach in his glove compartment if he were stopped by a police officer. That kind of woke me up because I realized that the people I heard about on the news being shot by police officers could just as easily be one of my friends. And I have thought about another of my close friends, who is a large, muscular black male. He is one of the sweetest, kindest, most fun people I know; no one who knows him would ever think of him as dangerous. But I realized that a person, maybe a police officer, who saw him walking down the street at night, would probably see him as suspicious and potentially dangerous. And so, realizing this, I fear for their lives, and I feel saddened that they must live with a fear I will never have because I am a white, upper-middle class, female college student and if I were ever in a bad situation, I would be given the benefit of the doubt. And I was made to think about this again when working as a field canvasser this summer and realized that I was able to make more money than a black individual could in the same job, even if they had the same or better skills, because people are less likely to be suspicious of a white female who comes to their door.
So, to my black friends and also to my other friends of color whose lives are threatened, I am sad for you. I am sad that you must live with this and I am sad that you cannot feel the same sense of safety and security that I do because of my skin color. I empathize with your fear because I have felt fear for my safety due to my gender, though I recognize that the fear I have faced is not the same as yours and that I can never truly know what it is to live in a black body.
I am far from the US right now and so I cannot be as fully present in the discussions and actions surrounding these events as I would like to be, but I am here for you if you need someone to listen or if there is anything else you need of me, and I pledge to continue educating myself and working to combat racism when I encounter it within myself and within my life.