Somewhere around 4am, I found myself wide awake and unable to fall back asleep. The thoughts keeping me awake were not really anything new. Not only is racism not getting better, in some ways things are actually getting worse. I am not an expert, and would never claim to be, and I know that I can always do more, be better and take more action. If you or someone you know are looking for somewhere to get started, I suggest starting here.
I know I will be.
I would be delusional if I claimed to grow up surrounded by diversity. I lived in a small town and for seven out of my thirteen years of school, I attended small private Catholic schools. Yet, all I remember was being taught kindness, love and equality regardless of how a person looked, what they had or what cards they were dealt.
From a young age, I remember getting very upset when learning about our nation’s history. As I got older, and seeing society try to perceive that we had “come a long way” and things weren’t “like that anymore”, time and time again it became more apparent that we really hadn’t. Too many people holding positions of power continued to sweep things under the rug, tamper with information and evidence, and time and time again acts of injustice took place.
“It was just a joke.” There’s no such thing as that; there is truth to any racist remark. Stolen opportunities of all different kinds. Wrongful imprisonments. Murders.
I have never been able to comprehend how individuals get to a point where they have these thoughts and take these kind of actions. I can only assume that they are deeply rooted in fear.
I am not referring to fear in the sense of an individual fearing for their life, so they murdered the other individual. Fear that builds over time because an individual continuously feels inferior to a person or a group of people that look a certain way. A fear that embarrasses them, one in which they can not admit to, so their entire mindset is overcome with hatred as they try to justify their thoughts and actions.
Officer Chauvin did not fear that George Floyd was going to kill him as he kneeled on his neck, cut off his air supply and slowly murdered him in broad daylight. He had three other officers there, all of whom were armed, making Floyd clearly outnumbered.
The three men who hunted down Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a jog, did not fear that he was going to kill them. This was a planned attack.
I realize that not all of the lives that were wrongfully taken throughout history were not done so by a person who held a position of power. Yet, for the particular type of instances that are being referenced, it’s safe to say that they all did hold “power”; the privilege of their white skin.
I also realize that we are not just talking about those who were murdered, but EVERYONE who has been and continues to be mistreated because of the color of their skin.
At what point did they begin being exposed to racist thoughts and beliefs? Did it come from their parents? Older siblings? Other family members? Neighbors? Movies? As they got older did they continue to have encounters to make them feel inferior? An individual who was better at them in a particular sport. Someone who got the girl and they didn’t. Didn’t get offered the job. Please do not think that I am trying to justify the action of these men. I am trying to understand how people get to this point, so we as a society can ensure that future generations do not follow down the same path.
My freshman year of college, I found myself at a random house party near Brown University. I really don’t know how or why we ended up there, but I happened to meet someone who, fifteen years later, I still call one of my best friends. We only lived in the same city for our freshmen year of college, because after that, I transferred to a different campus. Over the years, we have maintained our friendship, regardless of where either of us have lived and continued to reconnect in person when we can. Some of my best memories have been made with her. All fun and good times aside, she has taught me so much about a lot of things. Most relevant to what I am writing today, would be the racism that she had encountered throughout her life.
From 2005-2016, I lived in North and South Carolina. Living in the Carolinas is a little different than living in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I honestly don’t even know where to begin to try to recap the 11 years as they apply to all of this. Most of which are not my stories to tell, but suppose the ones that are, are an entirely different post that I will save for another day.
I do not, and nor will I ever, know what it is like to live in this world as a black man or a black woman. I can not imagine what it feels like for every time you leave your house (or as we recently saw with Breona Taylor in her OWN house) to feel as if you have a target on your back.
I do know what it feels like to fear for the life of people that I love. When you see headline after headline with another black American dead, put yourself in the shoes of their loved ones. Trayvon Martin’s father. Eric Garner’s widow. Philando Castile’s girlfriend. Tamir Rice’s mother.
I already fear when one man of my household leaves our home, and fear even more for the day that my son will be doing the same.
If you can, take 22 minutes out of your day to listen to A Decade of Watching Black People Die from Code Switch on NPR last night.
And in case there’s still confusion around Black Lives Matter. Here’s 9 different examples to help paint the picture better.