It’s too little, too late. It feels almost futile to say, but I don’t know what else to do as saying nothing is worse. I would rather say the wrong thing then stay silent. It’s a topic I have stayed quiet on for so long, because I don’t know how it feels. Growing up in a lower middle class suburban home, working at McDonald’s for $3.75 an hour while my upperclass counterparts had cars and vacations handed to them, I didn’t even know white privilege was a thing. It took countless Martin Browns, Trayvon Martins, Eric Garners, Tamir Rices to get it through my thick white skull that systematic racism is a potentially lethal threat to the daily lives of countless people of color, many of them my friends and loved ones.
A couple of years ago, I was at a concert with my cousin (a white man) and his friend (a black man). My cousin’s friend had a J on him and was kind enough to share. When I saw cops approaching us I said to him “give me all your weed right now”. It was about a dime’s worth, but in that nano-seccond I knew that if I was caught there would most likely be no consequence beyond a court date and a fine. I knew if he was caught it could be a potential jail sentence. “Always give your weed to the white girl”, I joked….only it was no joke at all. I had spoken to many men of color at Riker’s Island serving time for weed possession, when I sang there. No, it was not a ploy to get all his weed, I gave it back when the cops passed us… but even in that moment, I still did not understand the severity of systematic racism or white privilege.
Like many, I witnessed the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castille, as Diamond Reynold’s gave a calm and calculated play by play of everything that went down. Having gone through my own trauma, (which does not compare at all, obviously), I knew that look of calm all to well. Diamond knew in that moment, she had a duty to Philando, his legacy and human- kind to inform, educate and put this injustice out in the open for the world to see. The brain is a wondrous machine and knows how to protect itself in the most severe atrocities. While she is calm and collected in interviews, there will be plenty of time later for her to fully process the trauma behind close doors. The traumatized and rational parts of Diamond’s brain are working it out right now, just as ours most likely would if we were faced with a similar event.
There is an innate tendency in good people to fight for the betterment of humanity, while being thrown into the crossfires of the grossest of injustices. I have attached the video and I just want to warn that it is extremely graphic and disturbing, but it will change your view on life and open your eyes.
To all my beautiful friends of color, please know that my previous silence on police shootings have only come down to the fact that I never knew what to say. I never knew this was happening on the regular until I saw it on my Facebook feed… over and over. I never knew that my ability to go about my day to day life without being shot by police officers was actually a privilege. I still don’t know if I am doing or saying the right thing.
Ms. Reynolds, you are a hero for being able to document this in your most painful moment. Nothing will bring Philando back, but may this moment serve to prevent this from happening to countless others. This can’t change until we as a society are truly educated on the problem and stop turning a blind eye. And for those of us who don’t experience systematic racism, please take several seats with opened eyes and hearts. As a person of racial privilege I have zero clue on how to help matters, but am willing to learn if those oppressed are willing to teach people like me.