We must do better. In yet another highly publicized murder of black men at the hands of police, I am reminded of how much further we have to go as a country. How many times will we as a society have to witness ourselves or our family, friends, colleagues, or anyone else in our lives process another traumatic video before anything changes? We cannot do nothing. It is maddeningly infuriating. As I scroll through my polarizing Facebook news feed that inevitably arises after each reported shooting, I have a (few) bone(s) to pick with our country, and I won’t be silent about them.
1. Stop creating false equivalencies. Saying “black lives matter” does not mean that other lives do not. Standing in opposition to police brutality is not the same as hating all cops. Talking about racism is not the same as an indictment of a person’s character. I don’t need to hear that someone can’t be racist because she/he/they is/are a “good person.” Congrats on being a good person! Good people still grow up and live in a society inundated with messages about race. Good people still hold bias and operate within a racist system (for a few examples, check out these articles on media portrayals of people of color, educational inequity, or the criminal justice system). I am not interested in discussing anyone’s character when talking about race, especially when “good character” is used to justify the actions of a police officer killing another human being. In that same vein, looking for criminal activity or wrongdoing ― whether past or present ― when reports of yet another black man or woman has been killed by a police officer is irrelevant. Why does it matter? Even IF any of the involved shooting victims were breaking any laws, nonviolent and minor crime is not justification for taking a life.
2. Stop making excuses. We do not live in a “post-racial society.” Let me burst that bubble for you now. You may work, live, and frequent places that have little diversity, but if that is the case, there is a big world outside of your day-to-day life. I understand that your view of the world is predicated on your experiences (whose isn’t?), but that is why you have the Internet. That is why you show up to spaces even when you are uncomfortable to challenge your perception of the world. That is why you challenge colleagues, friends, or family when you see them pushing the rhetoric of “all lives matter.” I also mentioned this next point in the above paragraph, but I will restate it here: your character or well-meaning intentions do not excuse racism. Racism exists everywhere. What you do to challenge racism ― both in yourself and in others ― is what matters.
3. Stop checking out of the conversation. Does talking about race make you uncomfortable? Living the realities of racial injustice is not exactly a walk in the park either. Everyone needs to be part of that conversation, no matter how uncomfortable it is. Yes, this includes you. We need everyone at the table, working together to deepen our understanding of all the unique differences that make us the unique country that we are and to overturn all of the systems that deny opportunity to those who may be different (and, along the way, you might even find that others are not as different as you believe they are). News flash: this work is not finished yet.
I want to be clear that I am simply advocating for all of us to do our part in making this country a more inclusive place to live. If any of this article made you uncomfortable, offended, or angry, I hope you will explore those emotions. Only by moving past our comfort zone will we truly begin to break down divides and work side-by-side to create a more just world. We owe it to our brothers and sisters, our family and friends, our children and future generations to keep fighting the good fight.
Hopeful for a Better America