I’ve been sitting here staring at my computer screen for a good ten minutes now. Every time I put my fingers to the keys I freeze up, because I’m not even sure where to begin when it comes to the preceding and subsequent movement of the Mike Brown (non) trial. As a light-skinned person (half latino/half white) I am blessed with the privilege to be offended and upset by the grand jury’s decision, as opposed to black Americans who are (and with very good reason) afraid.
Another young black life was snuffed out, adding to an ever-growing list of both black adults and black children that are never given the justice that would be afforded to individuals of different racial backgrounds. Try, for a moment, to imagine the fear that you, your sibling, your best friend, your parents, or one of your children, could be murdered in cold blood by the system, and then said system telling you that the murder was justified due to whatever twisted reason they come up with. It’s absolutely repulsive, and inhumane, and it needs to stop, now.
Change in a society does not come without hard work, sacrifice, and an unflinching dedication to the cause. Throughout this ordeal I’ve seen equality warriors on the ground level, in the media (go figure), and even on social media (what?!). But what’s even more common are those that cling to ignorance like a mama’s boy clings to… well, mama. These are the people who are the first to bring up rioting without citing the countless (ridiculous) times that white people rioted. These are the people who assume that any and all black faces that are currently rioting are immediately connected to the Mike Brown/Ferguson movement. These are the people who are the first to talk about how dangerous the protestors are, and not the law enforcement officers carrying semi-automatic weapons, firing tear gas, and instigating reactions from protestors (seems we only pay attention to their brutality when they use mace on light-skinned protestors).
I think it’s just easier for some people to accept that the world is fine the way it is (read: lie to themselves), or to accept that a better world is impossible, because this is “how the world is”. Call me crazy, but progress has already been made in this world. Years ago gays had zero safe havens to live openly. Years ago black people couldn’t use the same restrooms as white people. Years ago a woman couldn’t be a mother and a boss at the same time. Although the hate and oppression behind these situations, and in some places the same situations themselves, still live and exist today, the world is at least minimally better for the current generation than the older generation. Hate was done much more openly back then, whereas now it is much more insidious (I guess people could debate which of these two is worse).
You can’t convince people who hate, racism, sexism, and homophobia still exist, because people choose what they see and what they believe. If people want to be ignorant, let them be ignorant. Let them eat up what the media tells them about dangerous rioters and dangerous protestors, because to them, the media never lies, the media never has an agenda, the media isn’t a money machine. However, if these people stand in your way, hurt those you care about, or attack you, you have every right in the world to go off on them. Let them call you an angry liberal. Let them call you an angry POC (person of color). Let them judge you. But don’t feel responsible for maintaining a perfectly composed, intellectual, and peaceful equality warrior 100% of the time. At the end of the day we’re all human and are entitled to give people a taste of their own medicine every once in a while. Rest assured, the ignorant and the racist will get theirs sooner or later, because future generations will look back through the relics of Facebook, Twitter, newspapers, and long-dead websites and shake their heads in shame at those that turned the other way or empowered a hate-filled, institutionally oppressive society.
That day won’t be possible unless people like us keep on fighting. Do whatever you can. Spread the word on social media. Share the stories and reports that matter the most. Talk to those that are curious to learn more. Listen to the voices of those that understand first-hand what oppression and racism look like. Find a local protest. Or if you’re blessed with a comfortable financial situation, send money to organizations that help those that are fighting the hardest to make change. (But please know that it’s okay to check out for a moment when you’ve reached a level of physical, mental, or emotional exhaustion.)
Every movement, no matter how small makes a difference. I, for one, knew exactly what I needed to do when I heard the Mike Brown verdict. I went right for my phone and called my best friend (who just so happens to be black) and told her that I was there for her if she needed to scream, to cry, to vent – and most importantly that her life, and the lives of her family, friends, students, and community matter to me. As non-black individuals we need to understand that we can’t understand their reality, and we don’t understand how they feel about themselves, about being black, because we’ve never been black in this world. So let them know that they matter, because society does a really good job of telling them that neither their opinions, voices, or lives matter.
Never stop being a warrior for equality. Know that you’re not alone. Don’t let the people around you make you feel crazy or hopeless. Those in power always try to stop progress and they do it by disheartening the individuals in a movement, one by one. Know that your dream of a better world is possible, and that we WILL reach it some day. Stay focused. Stay empowered. Stay passionate. The price for fighting for change is high, but just remember that you’re fighting for the right thing. There are no two sides to this battle – one side is right and one side is wrong. Hatred, ignorance, and bigotry are never right, no matter how you sugarcoat them. So people can go ahead and call me crazy. Go ahead and call me emotional. I’ll wear the crown with pride, and even strut it down the runway for you. POSE. POSE. POSE. FACE. FACE. TURN. STRUT. SERVE.