Ask and You Shall Receive

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I spent the past week taking some time for myself. Living life and embracing the joys of what life can bring. It, however, didn’t stop me from having conversations with individuals about the state of our country and the black community in particular. I spoke to people from many different backgrounds and many different races. They posed a lot of interesting questions. I realize that I am only one person and my viewpoint is only one of many, but I openly answered whatever questions they had from my standpoint. I didn’t shy away from the conversation just because we didn’t agree. I didn’t get defensive. I spoke respectfully and honestly. And I realized that is all you can do. You may not change everyone’s mind that you come in contact with, but you can enlighten them. You can give them something to think about. You can change how they see your community. Sometimes it’s not about proving yourself right. Sometimes it’s only about opening up the line of communication so that they feel comfortable enough to walk through the door. And maybe just maybe learn something.

These are just excerpts of questions from longer conversations.

July 18th 2016 – July 24th 2016

You say. “I’m so tired of hearing about white privilege. I’m tired of hearing about racism. I’m tired of hearing about police brutality towards blacks. I’m tired of hearing about #black lives matter!”

My response. “You’re tired? You’re tired of hearing about these things? What particularly makes you exhausted? You hear, but you don’t listen. If you did, you wouldn’t be tired because you have nothing to be tired about. All you do is hear it. I LIVE it.”


You say. “I know what’s happening is wrong. I know there are changes that are needed. I just don’t know where to start.”

My response. “You just did. By listening. By communicating. By believing in those who are telling you how they are being treated. By acknowledging that there IS a problem. The first step is moving out of denial.”


You say. “It’s not my fault that I’m white and that I have this privilege.”

My response. “But it is your fault when you don’t acknowledge it. It is your fault when you try to sweep it under the rug. It is your fault when you stand by and do nothing.”


You say. “But what right do I have to say anything. I’m white. I don’t know the struggle.”

My response. “You have every right. If you believe in humanity. If you know the difference between right and wrong. You have the right. It may be my black communities struggle, but you have the right to help in our struggle. We may hold the torch and lead the way, but we don’t want to do it alone. We shouldn’t have to do it alone. And what is more important than you having the right, you have the privilege. A privilege that if wielded for the right reasons can help turn the tide. Division has never solved anything. It’s only made it worse.”


You say. “I’m only one person. What can I do about Racism?”

My response. “Tons. For instance, when I say it exists, don’t argue and tell me it doesn’t. Don’t belittle my experiences. One’s, by the way, that you’ve never had. Don’t tell me it’s all in my head. Don’t tell me not every white person is racist (I know this). Don’t ignore a system that was built on the oppression of my ancestors. LISTEN. Not everything I say needs a response from you.”


You say. “Sometimes I feel extremely uncomfortable talking about the subject of race and police brutality. I don’t know if I’m not asking the right questions or if I’m asking them wrong, but some individuals I ask seem to always become defensive. Which makes me nervous to ask any further questions. I know I don’t fully understand the struggle, but I’d like to.”

My response. “Keep trying. There are those who will be defensive, but there are those who will also be willing to dialogue about the issues. It takes an open mind on both sides and you won’t always have that, but don’t give up. It’s not an easy topic. It’s uncomfortable and sometimes it’s filled with tension. If the person you’re speaking to isn’t open enough to discuss it with you than find someone else. But know that sometimes a response isn’t necessarily defensive. Sometimes it’s filled with simple passion for a better life for their black family. But always be respectful in the conversation. That goes for both sides. ”


You say. “All Lives Matter.”

My response. “No they don’t. Not in the way you want to believe. In a perfect world, yes all lives would matter. But this isn’t a perfect world. YOUR life matters MORE than MINE.


You say. “Can you explain to me what #blacklivesmatter is?”

My response. “I can do you one better. Go to www.blacklivesmatter.com. They’ll do a better job of explaining it than I could ever do. It’s not just a hashtag. It’s a movement and to understand it you have to do the research. You have to look into what the movement stands for. I’m not trying to deflect your question I just want you to have the correct information. I don’t want to mislead you.”


You say. “Police brutality happens in every race. If people wouldn’t resist than the police wouldn’t have to use deadly force.”

My response. “Police use deadly force against blacks at a rate 2.5 times that of our white counterparts. Resistance isn’t the problem. It’s the view that black people are somehow less human than whites. It’s the assumption that every black person is a criminal. It’s the fact that when we are KILLED the story that is told after is not of our accomplishments, but of our criminal records. As if that justifies our deaths.”


You say. “Some people believe #blacklivesmatter is a divisive group? That it’s causing the separation. Do you think that’s what’s happening?”

My response. “It’s not divisive. It’s bringing to the forefront an issue that has been affecting black lives for years. Police brutality is not a new event. It has always been there. The cameras are what is new. You are now seeing what we in the black community have always seen. Black lives matter has never been a statement meant to make others believe that black lives are the only lives that matter. It’s a statement to make you aware that black lives should matter too. It’s only divisive to those who see it as saying “more.” The movement has NEVER said “more.”


You say. “What about black on black crime? Don’t you care what your own people are doing to each other?”

My response. “What about white on white crime? People kill individuals within the community they live in. It’s fact. White crime just isn’t sensationalized within the media like black crime. Once again that’s the privilege of being white. The issues can be handled within the white community in private while ours are plastered on headlines across the nation. We don’t have that privilege.”


You say. “I teach a class made up of mainly black children. When they ask questions about what is happening around the country I’m not sure how to answer. I know my perspective, but it comes from privilege. To me it doesn’t seem as bad as people make it out to be. But I think that’s my privilege blinding me and I don’t know how to get around that. They deserve to know the reality of their world, but how do I explain it to them if I don’t’ live it?

My response. “For the most part their parents have probably had many conversations with them on what’s going on in the country. What you’re getting asked about is the residual information that is being thrown at them through social media while they are at school or the conversations they are having amongst each other. Sometimes the best thing you can do is sit back and listen. Ask them what they’re parents have told them. Get an idea for the different viewpoints in their families and ask them how they feel and what they think? You don’t always have to have the answer. Let them puzzle it out and process it on their own. Make their own conclusions. Most often than not they just want to be heard. And then maybey you might start to understand. You may not live it, but you can always learn from other people’s experiences.”


You say. “You should focus more on raising better behaved children. Then maybe these altercations wouldn’t occur.”

My response. “All we do is teach our children to be respectful, polite, and follow instructions from authority. We KNOW the consequences if they don’t. Being compliant doesn’t save our children. Being educated doesn’t save our children. Being respectful doesn’t save our children. Having good manners doesn’t save our children. That’s been proven many times over. I’ve personally seen it. Why is it seen as an act of resistance when we ask a simple question of our police officers that is well within our rights? When do our rights as citizen’s matter? Let me ask you something. Since when did victim blaming become the new trend?”


You say. “I don’t want to be seen as the enemy. But I feel like sometimes I am before I’m ever given a chance. How do I stop that?”

My response. “You’re just getting a glimpse of how the media portrays the black community. It doesn’t feel good does it? To be demonized before you are ever truly known. With the tensions arising it’s more and more becoming an Us vs. Them mentality which we cannot afford. All I can tell you is to just be yourself. Be kind and compassionate. Be honest and loyal. Be HUMAN. Know that some individuals will always see you as the enemy and some individuals will truly see you. Just don’t give up. One person’s actions do not reflect the views of a whole group of people. Remember that.”


You say. “Not all police officers are bad!”

My response. “Yes I am well aware of that. But when those police officers who are doing their jobs correctly don’t condemn those who aren’t this is the outcome. Mistrust for all police officers. I mean it’s the same with how society views Black America. One Black Americans poor decisions or actions is a representation of us all right?”


You say. “How do you do it? How do you live like this? My husband and I adopted a child seven years ago. A little black boy. We are scared for him every second of every day of his life. How do you still continue to have hope?”

My response. “Because I believe in humanity. I believe in the good. I have faith. You can’t let the fear consume you. If you do they’ve won. The people who will tell your boy that he is nothing. The people who will make him feel less. The people who will hate him because of his skin. They win when we remain silent. They win when we lose compassion. They win when we hate. So I choose to hope. I choose to believe in the good in people. I choose to value those around me who are fighting with me. Living while black is hard. I won’t lie to you about that. It won’t be easy for him and on some days he won’t feel like it’s worth it. But do me a favor. Remind him of this. Tell him that a person’s character and strength does not come from what is easy in life. It comes from what is hard. From what pushes you to the brink and forces you to make a choice. And it’s in that moment of decision, the moment you choose to either go low or rise high, that you’ll find out what you’re truly made of. Tell him his character is not defined by the actions of others, but of his actions alone. Then tell him to choose wisely, and then as his parents, when he makes his choice you support him at all costs.”


You say. “Why do you have to make everything about race?”

My response. “Because America does. Any standardized test that you’re given as a child asks you to “check a RACE box”. College applications ask you to “check a RACE box.” When you are filling out applications for a job you are asked to “check a RACE box”. Race is the foundation of our country. It’s what we were built on. You think I started this? You think I perpetuate this? Think again.”


You say. “Aren’t you exhausted? Doesn’t it wear you out to be angry all the time?”

My response. “I’ve never been angry. I’m deeply hurt. I’m deeply disappointed. I’m deeply devastated, but never angry. You see, when I scream #blacklivesmatter, when I scream “stop killing us”, when I scream “hands up don’t shoot” it never comes from an angry place. It comes from a place where my morals won’t ALLOW me to believe that the killing of an unarmed individual in any situation is justified. Whether that individual is black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc. It comes from a place where I recognize and acknowledge that the lives of all matter, but at this moment in our history the lives of my people don’t. It comes from a place where the LOVE I have for my people is so strong that I cannot stay silent. I cannot stand by. I JUST CAN’T.”


You say. “Well aren’t you biracial? Or do you just not acknowledge your white community?”

My response. “I am biracial. I acknowledge my white community on most occasions. I can’t ignore it because my mother is white. My mother is an amazing human being. I am also aware of the privileges that can come with being biracial. That’s why I speak out against injustices. I have a very mixed group of acquaintances, friends, and colleagues. I can open dialogue between those of any color easily. That comes with part of my privilege. But you see, I also understand that my black community is suffering from an oppression that my white community has long since tried to deny. Being biracial doesn’t stop me from knowing right from wrong. It doesn’t stop me from wanting a better future for those in my black community. Because believe it or not I can scream from the top of my lungs that I’m biracial, but some in society have shown me on many occasions how they believe otherwise. I’m seen as black because when I get pulled over the box that is always marked is black.”


You say. “We have a black president. Racism can’t really exist.”

My response. “That was our mistake. That was our downfall. Having a black president didn’t erase racism. It didn’t dull it. It was only a step forward. But you see, people like you, will from now on excuse or be blind to racism because out of forty-four presidents we had one black president. That must mean were past it…”


You say. “I want to be a part of the solution. I don’t want to be a part of the problem any longer. Can you help me find a way?”

My response. “Absolutely.”

 

 

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