The last couple weeks have been rough. Between commercial airliners being shot down over war zones, Israel and Palestine trading atrocities, and your everyday general violent shitshow on American soil, I have not been very optimistic about the state of affairs in the world. And then Robin Williams committed suicide and it felt like more than just the sad and tragic end to a talented and generous artist. It felt like the obvious conclusion to the last couple of weeks. “The world is falling apart, and the funniest man in it can’t take it anymore.”
But, there is ONE standalone outrage that I was honestly having a hard time wrapping my mind around – the shooting of Michael Brown.
A friend posted this link on Facebook earlier today. I clicked on it immediately because the headline – “Becoming a White Ally…” – resonated more with me than any other headline I’d read about the incident. I think the LGBT community has done a wonderful job engaging their straight allies – so much so that when I hear the word “ally,” I immediately attribute it to that community (and my role in it as an ally). So reading that headline made me feel, for the first time since Michael Brown’s murder, like there might actually be something I can do about it.
Growing up where I did and attending the school I attended, I wasn’t in the company of many people of color (or of anything other than Polish, Italian, German, and Irish) for most of my young life. In fact, I had one good friend that my grandmother (God rest her soul, but she grew up in poor Appalachia and just did NOT understand racial sensitivity) referred to as my “black friend.” Because, yes, I only HAD one. When I was 12 I joined the YMCA Teen Leaders and was almost immediately introduced to an incredibly diverse group of teens and adults. From the age of 12 until 19 when I left Leaders, I had more than a few friends who were black. And then I went to a largely homogenous college and my life has since become much more whitewashed. While I maintain Facebook friendships with a lot of my friends growing up and have obviously met other wonderful people of color since then, I don’t have the kind of close friendships where I’d feel comfortable bringing up race relations and trying to start a dialogue (in fact, I feel actual anxiety even typing the words “people of color” in my blog that hardly anybody has ever read because I’m worried it’s not the agreed upon term to use). I’ll admit it – I’m white and I don’t have the first idea how to fix the 400 year old systemic racism in this country.
Except that I find what’s going on in Ferguson, Missouri to be an affront to anyone with a heart or soul, regardless of race.
I would love to think that a year from now, a month from now, or even a week from now I’ll still be advocating for racial equality. But Lord knows that there are many issues, inequalities and horrors to be addressed. So for now, all I can do is give my $5 to the NAACP and post this link to Facebook because, as the author of that great article pointed out, “a lot of white people aren’t speaking out publicly against the killing of Michael Brown because they don’t see a space for themselves to engage meaningfully in the conversation so that they can move to action against racism.” So here I am.