I have started so many blog posts over the past few weeks, to offer my support to different groups who have been experiencing violence and hatred recently and perpetually, systemically. The world is an ugly place and suddenly my drafts box, my inbox, my Facebook feed is overwhelmed with all of the pain and injustice in it.
And I want to acknowledge terrible thing happened last night when those snipers attacked police at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas. I feel sad for their families, sad for the fact that their lives were cut short.
But let’s not forget the systemic violence and oppression that have led us to this moment. Let’s not forget all the others who have died, and what that means for our society. Let’s not forget why Black Lives Matter became the slogan of a movement in the first place. Let’s not get carried away so quickly from the issues and the injustices that have brought this world to the boiling point where people take up arms against their neighbors for having a different face, a different religion, a different love.
So before I get into what I want to talk about, let me just say this: Stop the killing. Just stop it. Right now. We must correct the imbalance, acknowledge that the system is broken, and actually make strides toward doing something about it.
As someone who sits uncomfortably with her privilege, I know two things for certain: 1.) I have to say something, have to speak out against the evil that I see and the insidious ways it manifests itself in the world and even in my own interactions with others, and 2.) I usually have no idea what to say.
Except that today I do know what to say. And I know who I need to talk to. Because I know you’re out there, you people who just like me are appalled by the horror we see in the world and clueless as to what you can do about it because you’re not black, you’re not LGBTQ, you’re actually pretty blessed, and you’re afraid of what will happen if you draw attention to yourself by taking a stand that has so many drawbacks, so many avenues for disapproval.
But not saying anything is not going to cut it anymore. By keeping silent, we allow others to fill the void, to drown out our voices with their own messages. So if you’re wondering what you can do in the face of all this hate, here are a few ways to get the conversation started, and begin working toward some resolution in your own community.
- Acknowledge the injustice, the inequality that exists in the world. That’s an unpopular thing for some people to admit. Injustice and inequality perpetuate violence in all its forms. And the people that benefit from them would rather you not admit that they exist, or that there’s anything you can do to correct them. So first things first. When you hear about it, speak about it. Share it. Shed light on it. And don’t believe the people who tell you it doesn’t exist or that it’s all a matter of perspective. They’re wrong.
- Find someone who is a part of one of the oppressed groups, who is speaking their truth, and amplify it. Share it with your friends on Facebook, on your blog, talk about it around the dinner table with your family. Give marginalized voices your platform to speak from, no matter how small you think that is. You may lose “friends” over this, because by amplifying someone else’s voice, you’re showing your hand and admitting you support them. But whatever you suffer in loss of friends, just remember it’s a thousand times worse for the people who are the subject of the violence and aggression you’re helping to shine a light on.
- Understand that you are going to get things wrong at first, but that, if you’re open and willing to learn, you’ll quickly start to get it right. And “getting things wrong” in the process of lending support, love, and solidarity is no excuse to keep your mouth shut. If we don’t get things wrong sometimes, how do we ever learn what’s right?
- Remember to keep the focus on the issues, the violence, the broken justice system, the rampant poverty and inequality that causes and is caused by these things. When you’re speaking about someone else’s pain and suffering, the narrative should never be about you. It’s not about how brave you are for speaking out in support of black people or gay people. Don’t make their tragedy, their oppression about you.
I admit that I have been too silent, too willing to let someone speak out about the problems I don’t know how to solve. I’ve started and not posted many blog posts because I didn’t know what to say and let the ambiguous “fear of being wrong” keep me from speaking out. But not anymore. I want justice, dignity, peace, and freedom for all people. And I’m not going to shut up about it.
Black lives matter. This does not mean that I think that police should be murdered. It does mean that violence and oppression against black people is real and must be acknowledged and stopped.
Want to know more about what you can do to speak out about injustice this week? Here are a couple links. Get outside your comfort zone. Talk to people in your community. And share what you know.
Campaign Zero – addresses legislation around police violence
National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund