I always thought it would have been cool to be alive during the 60s, to experience the Civil Rights Movement. To march on Washington and stand next to my brothers and sisters to fight for equality for all humans.
And then another black man gets shot, in freaking 2016, and I realize that we’re still in it. Each shot echoes with our failure to change and to care for one another.
What happened in our past is still happening today. I sometimes wonder if I would have had the courage to fight the good fight. Fear still looks the same today: What will people say if I join in protest? Will my job be safe? Will I be physically harmed? None of this has changed.
We have not changed for you. And I am so sorry.
More black men were shot this week and very few people around me are talking about it. Every time a name is added to the list, every time a friend talks about their fear, I want to throw up. To grab people’s faces with my hands and ask them why. To call people’s mommas. To put everyone in time out.
But we can’t stop time. We can only work to change the moving parts of our present.
Folks can’t stop criticising Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem, for not protesting the right way. There are always plenty of voices telling people of color how they should act, how they should be. What’s absent are the voices criticizing the way we treat people of color in this country. It’s not on our radar. “But we have come so far. Racism is dead.”
These are things white people say to wash their hands of it all. We unfriend, we turn off our TVs, we argue. We are right and you are wrong.
What we don’t do is listen. We do not seek to understand. Because we are right and you are wrong.
I recognize that I am part of that Collective We. I care about my friends, and colleagues, and fellow citizens of color. And so, I am trying to spend more time listening so I can understand.
But I know that’s not enough anymore.
During the past few days, I spent some time checking in with colleagues and friends. There seemed to be a theme among them:
The silence is suffocating.
I will never know what it’s like to be a black or brown person in America, and I’m not going to pretend to.
But I know what it’s like to feel alone. I know what it’s like to be going through some shit, and how it feels when no one steps up to go through it along with you. I know what it’s like to be afraid and I know how exhausting it is to carry around that fear. We all do. That’s our human connection.
I’ll listen better. I’ll do better. I hope the rest of the Collective We will also. Can we start by having thoughtful, difficult conversations? By not running away, unfriending, and silencing differences? But to try and understand each other better?
Can we? I sure hope you’ll try.