It was gradual. But powerful. Sitting back and watching the protests in Ferguson, where ever there was violence against people of color, the beginnings of #BlackLivesMatter movement, I thought to myself, “Wow-how angry these people are.” And went about my own business. I wasn’t indifferent, just ignorant in my understanding of their experience. Sure, I could watch the tv news every morning and night and see the violence that people of color are subjected to daily by the government meant to protect us all, but hey-it didn’t affect me, so….I didn’t think about it too much. Am I showing how deep I was in my own white privilege? I hope so. Honestly, I am still shoveling my way out of this deep hole I am in.
Then I spoke with people. SPOKE with them about their experiences. SPOKE with them about their thoughts, their feelings, their beliefs. And it started to sink in. I wrote a piece earlier last year…about 6 months ago…and I stated that violence begets violence begets violence…but I better understand WHY there has been violence. I was still mired down in my own privilege and allowing that to influence my thoughts and feelings. But not anymore. I GET IT NOW. We have, since the founding of this country, used non-peaceful protest and actions to achieve the desired results (Hello…the American Revolution! A giant war that included an act of rebellion and governmental property damage in Boston). WE WERE FOUNDED ON NON-PEACEFUL PROTEST. I get it now, my friends of color. I get WHY there has been so much violence. I get WHY peaceful protest does not always work. And I understand that, if I want to be a part of this protest against the atrocities taking place in our country against people of color, women, immigrants, the LQBTQIA community, I HAVE to WAKE THE FUCK UP to the fact that it will not be peaceful, silent, or pretty. I HAVE to be okay with that because if I am not, I will remain in my bubble of ignorance surrounding myself with the unrealistic and idealistic point of view that just by talking about it, something will happen.
NO. I was WRONG to think that a peaceful protest will always be the best way to be heard. And it is uncomfortable. I feel guilty. I feel ashamed. I feel like I have been part of the problem. And I am going to try my damndest to correct my oversight. I am going to try my damndest to continue to be uncomfortable, because when I am feeling this discomfort, I am learning about what I have done to overlook the truth of it all. And MY truth is that I was too scared to be fully involved because I didn’t want others to think poorly of me, to think I was stirring the pot, to think that I was supporting something just to support it and not because I truly believed in the movement. I didn’t want to catch shit from my family, whom I love dearly, but I do not share the same political beliefs as they do.
The amount of emotional labor that my friends of color and my friends in the LGBTQIA (of which I identify as being a part of, btw) have put in to educate cisgender, heterosexual white people has been tremendous. They are the ones experiencing the violence, condemnation, anger, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc and then they have to EXPLAIN WHY they are upset?? No. Not okay. NOT OKAY AT ALL. I should not expect them to go through all they do and then do MORE work to try to explain why things need to change. So, I plan to stay uncomfortable. And I plan to make other folks uncomfortable as well by talking about it.
So, my friends of color, my friends in the LGBTQIA community, stay angry. Keep protesting. Keep speaking out. I am going to be a better advocate for you. I am going to be a better listener. I am going to pay attention to the ignorance that is around me and try to educate people as best I can. And I may come to you from time to time to help me use the right words so I am not furthering misconceptions or passing along unhelpful and ignorant information. I am going to stay #woke.