Thursday, July 7, 2016

Apathy and Racism: Why We Can't Stay Silent

I’m sorry. I don’t have the right words to convey the heaviness of all this… I’m not usually someone that’s at a loss for them, but this time, everything I type just seems weightless. Flat. Weak. But I can’t just say nothing… because that’s what I’ve done my whole life.

I grew up in a generation that watched happy, smiling faces of all colors on evening sitcoms and learned all the Sesame Street lessons about how we’re all the same and listened to our teachers tell us not to treat others differently just because they look differently. They taught us about the sins of our nation’s past- Riots. Lynchings. Beatings. Slavery. Division. That was the face of racism. Thank goodness racism was a thing of the past… right? But I also grew up in a world where some members of my family use the “N word” freely and talk openly about how “they” are different from “us,” and even worse, “they” CHOOSE to live their lives that way. “They” have been given all of the opportunity that anyone else has been given, and just look how “they” choose to use their freedom. What a shame. But it’s not our fault… I knew that couldn’t possibly be the whole truth, but I said nothing. Friends in school made racist jokes and everyone laughed, and even though I understood it was wrong, I said nothing. I saw black friends pulled over simply for being black in an affluent neighborhood, and still said nothing. Over and over, I justified apathy and silence.

I have been bred to be what I like to call, “white and polite.” Leave it be. Don’t rock the boat. Just be kind to others, and it’ll work itself out. Racism was for crazy inbred skinheads wearing white cloaks. Not for me.

But that doesn’t really seem to be working. Those lessons they taught us about racism being part of the past? About how America is a place of equal opportunity for all people of all colors and beliefs? Those lessons are crumbling around us. They’re disintegrating. And I can’t just stand in the ashes and say nothing this time.

It’s difficult though, isn’t it? To have understood America as a place of peace and privilege only to be confronted with our own hypocrisy and realize that the privilege is not shared by all people and has only further contributed to the divide. It’s jarring. Your knee-jerk reaction is probably to deny it and justify it. Go ahead. List all your black friends to me. Tell me how much you love Beyonce. Remind me that your cousin is half black and you did a mission trip to Ethiopia.

We don’t even know how good we have it… how our paths have been laid for us by generations that have denied freedom to others. How our privilege has impact in places so far from the comfort of our own lives that we couldn’t possibly see its ripples, and yet we have the audacity to insist that it doesn’t exist.

I see and hear lots of complaints about how we’re too sensitive as a nation anymore. We’re too easily offended… and maybe some of that is true. But maybe… maybe we’re becoming better. Maybe we’re learning to spot injustice and racism masquerading as humor or opinion or simple misfortune… Maybe we’re learning to wade through the untruths we were fed as wide-eyed children to find that they don’t hold up now that we’re adults. And maybe, now that we’re the ones giving the lessons, we can get it right…

All hope is not lost, but we’re still part of the problem if we stay silent.
‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ ‪#‎altonsterling‬ ‪#‎philandocastile‬


  1. I stumbled across your blog on the All Things Parenting Pinterest group board. This is a perfect way to express the situation in the U.S. It makes me furious to see so many white people expressing willful ignorance. This post is written in such a way to gently turn the mirror on our culture.

    1. It's been a hard pill to swallow, and a tough lesson to learn- and keep learning every single day. But it's worth it for our children's futures!

  2. Thank you for sharing this geniune and heartfelt message publicly. God bless you!