“We are heading to the beach this weekend!” And that sentence was all it took. It was like a punch in the gut, a slap in the face, and a complete and utter denial of what is happening in our world. These were the kinds of things the adults were talking about during a socially distant kindergarten class picnic that I recently went to. Plans were being made like having some pool time, heading to the beach, etc. And to an extent, I get it. People have lives, they have things going on, they have children. However…I’m not hearing even one word being spoken about, oh gee, I don’t know, the biggest civil rights movement of our generation’s time. So I bring it up. “I plan on protesting this weekend.” My words hung in the air like a dead weight, received with uncomfortable silence. They know exactly what it is I am protesting.
This has happened on more than one occasion. It’s as if they’re willfully oblivious to the blatant civil and human rights violations occurring in ourt country. When I press the subject and continue speaking about it, I get a chorus of “Well, just to play devil’s advocate here…what if they get violent at the protests?” or “Looting is bad too, and two wrongs don’t make a right,” followed by a knowing and confident smile, thinking that this will silence me.
…I then launch into a tirade about why people are so angry that they want cities to burn. And no, we cannot blame them. Because you know, 400 plus years of oppression will do that to people.
Um, who is this “they” that might get violent or riot and loot? Oh, protestors? Okay. So protesters are automatically deemed to be rioters and looters, and all things violent, as law enforcement officers fearfully cower nearby, is that right? After explaining the rights of peaceful protests happening all over the world, I then launch into a tirade about why people are so angry that they want cities to burn. And no, we cannot blame them. Because you know, 400 plus years of oppression will do that to people.
I realize that I do not know enough about Black history to give a proper lecture to people who react to the plight of Black people in America with such indifference. But even if you are just recently hearing about all the unarmed people of color who have been wrongfully killed, doesn’t that spark just a bit of outrage within your core? Is this the kind of world you want your children to grow up in? A world where maybe their Black best friend can get shot dead in the back for running away in fear from an armed police officer? Or for holding a water gun? Or a bag of Skittles? Or for being wrongfully accused of a crime? And because of the fact that many people around me sadly do not think of these situations — because they don’t have to worry about it happening to them — is the very picture of privilege. Am I saying that I am not just as privileged? Absolutely not. I recognize the fact that even as a minority, I have never and will never face the obstacles that my Black brothers and sisters face every day. The fear, the anxiety, the level of those feelings will never be so big as to match the whirlwind of emotions that the Black community deals with on a regular basis.
But just the lack of realization and insight of the people around me astonds me. The lack of passion and sensitivity blows my mind. I am not saying that one has to be consumed with these issues 24/7 like I seem to be, but even to dedicate a few hours of reflection and education about the issues of systemic racism, and how systemic racism currently impacts Black people today would be nice. And from what I see (or don’t see), I don’t think that these folks have spared even the bare minimum of a few minutes for something that they cannot and will not even attempt to relate to.
Through news and social media outlets, as much as we see opposition, we see just as much support for these continued race wars that we are trying to end. Small groups here and there have amounted to such large crowds, from the smallest towns to the biggest cities all around the world. White people surrounding Black people to protect them. People of all ages and races looking out for one another, marching beside each other with the goals of equality and justice in mind. And it gives me hope for our future. For my children’s future. And I will never stop fighting for that.
Mariam is a stay at home mom, boutique owner, and writer.