On Being Pro-People

I’m going to start by admitting that I don’t know where this post is going. For once, I’m just writing, trying to make sense of this world and the events unfolding. As Flannery O’Connor said,  “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

So here goes.

There’s a lot of shit going on on this planet right now, and too many are racially-charged events I can’t fathom or grasp fully — the reason being that I have lead a privileged, white life. I know I have, and I will admit that without hesitation. I know I’m lucky that I’ve never been scared to walk down the street, to browse in a store, or to get pulled over. I don’t fear for my life on a daily basis.

And that’s exactly why I’ve had trouble speaking up about these recent events, such as the deaths of two black men, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, at the hands of law enforcement officers.

In the past I haven’t remained as silent about these situations. But still, I’ve never been able to articulate much more than “This is wrong. This should not be happening.” I just can’t get much further than that when thinking about these instances.

But this morning a friend of mine, a member of the black community, messaged me and expressed frustration at my silence about the topic. She was exasperated I had remained silent about the two black men’s deaths, yet I chose to post something about the attack on law enforcement in Dallas.

At first I was offended and somewhat hurt at her approach. I felt that just because I write and sometimes share on social media and have a somewhat wide reach does not mean I am obligated to comment on each current event.

However, her comments made me think. They made me wonder why I had chosen to stay silent on one topic and speak out on another.

And I think this is why it’s hard for me to speak up about the deaths of Philando and Alton: I feel I don’t know enough about the topic. I’ve never been black in today’s world, and I never will be. I fear writing something and coming across as if I feel that community’s pain or their suffering, when in fact I have no idea what it feels like. I fear I will minimize what they are going through. I fear I will sound naive and undereducated about the topics at hand. I fear I don’t know the whole story, and as a journalist, doing my best to gather the whole story is what I work towards daily.

But not today.

Today I’ve realized it’s enough to know this one thing: What has happened — is happening — is not excusable. It is not defendable. It is not OK, plain and simple. I may be only one voice, and I may think my one voice doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but thinking that way is what silences thousands of voices — and when put together, thousands of voices can make all the difference in the world.

I may not know what it is like to be black, but I do know that no one deserves to live in fear — not the black community, and not law enforcement officers. No one deserves retaliation for offenses they were no part of. No one deserves to be lumped into a group and targeted because of the alleged actions of a small percentage of that group.

I read something today, a statement made by Trevor Noah of The Daily Show, and it made so much sense to me: “If you’re pro-Black Lives Matter you’re assumed to be anti-police, and if you’re pro-police, then you surely hate black people. It seems that it’s either pro-cop and anti-black, or pro-black and anti-cop, when in reality, you can be pro-cop and pro-black, which is what we should all be.”

And that’s just it. We should be pro-people. That’s the only group we all fall into that truly matters. These events shouldn’t result in pitting two, three, four groups against one another — that’s not right and that’s certainly not effective.

I realize I am a white woman writing this. I realize I don’t have the same vantage point as friends of mine do. I realize this post isn’t thoroughly researched and backed up with statistics and specific situations. That’s not what I was aiming for. I was aiming for raw and unedited and real and outspoken, because everyone has their right to expressing themselves that way without fear of others’ reactions.

Until right now, I was letting fear dictate what I expressed. But I’m done with that because this world is ours — all of ours. And I don’t know about you, but I think most of us are pro-people. So let’s start acting like it.


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