Speaking up, even relatively anonymously on the internet, is terrifying to me. But I can’t be silent any longer on the issues surrounding race and police brutality. I just can’t, though it’s taken me several days to articulate my anger beyond “GR ARGH!” which may be cathartic but hardly makes for a coherent argument.
Michael Brown’s death was an entirely avoidable tragedy, and the subsequent lack of action by our “justice” system is a travesty. But the thing is, this isn’t just about Brown. This is about the hundreds of black people killed needlessly by police in the past few years. Some victims have been portrayed as thugs, others it hasn’t been so easy for the media to smear that way. But spend any time in certain sections of Tumblr and you’ll see story after story, and picture after picture of the sort of terrorism enacted against black people (and other people of color, but especially those with the darkest skin).
Meanwhile, there are people online and off who actively or passively try to silence and erase the voices of people telling their experiences with racism in this country. They tout theories that if black people and their allies would just shut up about race already, then all their problems would be solved. They shut their minds to any evidence (and there is mountains of it out there, from internet to library to academic journals) that ignoring race doesn’t erase racism, it just drives it under cover.
I’d like to think that body-cameras and clearer more stringent rules for the uses of force and better gun-control laws would make these issues go away. But racism is so deeply embedded in the very fabric of our culture that most people, even a distressing number of people of color who have experienced it, can’t see the extent of it. The only cure is going to be a complete change in culture, so that anyone defending racist policies or attempting to actively harm people with different melanin-content than themselves are not just argued with or voted against by some portion of the population. These behaviors must be actively ostracized. These must be relationship-ending, job-losing, police-investigatory behaviors because they are so far outside the norm of our culture that they are seen for the real-and-present dangers they are.
This sort of enormous cultural shift doesn’t come quickly, or easily, or without the cooperation and active participation of a majority of its citizens. Until enough of us (especially those of “us” culturally coded as white) decide that we need to change this narrative, it will stay. That’s why I have to speak up. I probably won’t change many minds, since my voice is small and not very loud, nor terribly eloquent. But even small, inelegant voices have a place in this fight. Many small voices can create a cacophony impossible to ignore.
So. This is me not staying silent in the face of racism and inequality around me. Nothing I’m saying is new, or ground-breaking. All of it has been said before. But it’s still important that I add my voice to the cacophony advocating for change.