I must be honest. I have been hesitant to write this post for many reasons. First of all, I am neither black nor white. So I was wary of entering into a conversation where my perspective and understanding of people’s experiences is rather limited. However, I came to realize that while the #blacklivesmatter movement has been the focal point of racial tension in the U.S. to day, the responsibility of learning how to better navigate race relations is on all of us. We (society as a whole) cannot reduce to simply a black issue or a police issue. It is a societal issue. And we must each take individual responsibility for how we shape the society and culture around us.
Secondly, while I had many thoughts and feelings in the days following a week filled with too many tragic deaths, I wanted to take time to let everything process. While yes, I felt the tension and the urgency of events that demanded our attention and noted the injustices that needed to be called out, I also felt the need to wait a bit before posting. Yes, I wanted to contribute to the conversation, but not right away. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t posting just because this was the most urgent and relevant topic. In the week following the events, it seemed like everyone wanted to share their two cents. But as more days passed, I saw the conversation start to fade. And that worries me. Not because I think the many thoughts and opinions, posts and reposts, were all ingenuine. I know there have been some great posts put out there trying to shape the conversation and expose people to new perspectives. And that is great. But I am worried that as time moves us further away from the poignancy of those painful events, that we will slowly move on and go back to business as usual, forgetting the once so adamant calls for change.
So that’s why I am here writing today. With the hope of reminding us all that the conversation MUST continue.
In the midst of the pain, the hurt and the anger, we recognized that we can do better as a society. We demanded justice and called for change. We gathered to mourn and to pray and for a moment, we all felt united. And yet, once the moment of silence passed, we slowly but surely started to move on. Some quicker than others, but nonetheless, we returned to life as usual and the call for change began to fade into a mere dream. Now, distant from the ongoing realities of injustice that cause so much fear, mistrust and anger, we’ve forgotten the pain and the sense of unity. It’s once again “their” problem, rather than “ours”, as a whole, as a society.
Friends, let us not wait until more lives are lost to remember that this is ALL of our responsibility. We ALL have a role to play. WE can do better. We must do better. If we want to help shape our communities to develop a more just and equal society for all, then we MUST continue the conversation. If we truly want change, then we must continually seek to engage in the issues of injustice. We cannot keep waiting for the problems to hit us in the face. We must learn to remove the blinders that have prevented us from seeing and understanding the everyday realities (and often painful experiences) of people whose race, class, gender and /or sexual identity differ from our own.
This is what sociologists call social location. If there’s one thing I want you take away after reading this post, it’s to learn about social location. In order to begin any conversation about race relations, I think it’s important for everyone to have an understanding about how factors such as race, class and gender all affect our perspectives and experiences, how we interact in society and view and relate to one another.
Also I know “privilege” is sensitive word. While I’m not going to touch on that too much, at least for right now, I highly recommend Allan Johnson’s book, Privilege, Power, and Difference. He really helps to “unraveling the knot of privilege” by breaking down what privilege really means and looks like and how we all have a part to play in shaping society for the better.
Finally, we must remember that change is a slow and difficult process. It’s going to take a while. And we must be patient, and diligent. For those of us who have the privilege to move on and forget, my hope is that we will do our best to continually engage in these issues and learn to recognize injustice, not just when tragic events are blasted on the media, but in the everyday experiences of other people who may have not had the same advantages in life. We can not give up and simply leave the fight for equality to those who experience injustice daily. We must do this together. As a society and as individuals, we must continue the conversation.