How many times have I heard something like this said over my lifetime? Too many.
“Please don’t bother the status quo…it’s working just fine.” “Please stay in your place and everything will be okay.” “Violence isn’t the answer.” “Why can’t you just protest peacefully?”
The status quo isn’t working just fine. Too many people are stopped for walking while black…driving while black…standing in their yards while black…shopping while black. And don’t tell me those are isolated incidents. They’re not. They’re everyday fears for far too many Americans.
What is someone’s place? Under your knee? Out of sight?
I agree, violence isn’t the answer. But do we learn about the violence that has been perpetrated against an entire race because of their skin color? We might have heard about some lynchings…might even know about Emmett Till. But what about the Tulsa Race Massacre? the Tuskegee experiment? And are we aware–really aware–of the brutality of the lynchings?
Not to mention the long list of people of color who have been victims of police brutality in our own time…and the systemic racism that makes it acceptable for white folks to make threats and carry weapons into a state legislature, threatening violence–and yet be allowed to walk around freely, while people of color are shot, even when they are on the ground with their hands up, trying to protect an autistic client.
Why can’t you just protest peacefully? What we really mean is, please don’t get in my face with your stories and your anger. For a generation, people of color have been trying to get us to listen. Every Sunday, Colin Kaepernick protested peacefully to try to get us to listen.
These current protests aren’t about one man’s death. They’re about years of brutality…of being ignored…of being mistreated. They’re about years of trying to get us white folk to listen–and nothing else seems to get our attention.
If we will not listen–truly listen–as people of color try to share their experiences with us…if we are not willing to at least try to put aside our biases (whether they are conscious or unconscious), then eventually we will hear “a song of angry [people] who will not be slaves again.”