as i write this it has been 4 days since the attempted coup at the white house, and i still don’t know how to put into words all that i am feeling. as i’ve seen expressed by others on social media, i am both surprised and yet unsurprised that this happened. many have claimed this isn’t our country, this isn’t who we are, but the truth is that it’s exactly who we are but it’s only now that most [white] people are realizing it.
on thursday morning our department at worked gathered [on zoom] for our annual winter “retreat”, and the first half hour or so was dedicated to allowing anyone who wished to do so to share how they were feeling in that moment and if there was anything they needed. i listened as my black coworkers shared the anger, fear, and frustration that they have carried with them their whole lives, knowing that every system in our country was set up to oppress them. when i was speaking with my father later that evening, i voiced that no matter how angry i am, no matter how irate, how sad, how scared, how frustrated, i will never know how my black friends and coworkers and students feel in these moments. i can listen, i can learn, i can empathize, but i will never know that pain or fear. one of my students expressed how scared she is as a black woman and i am so angry that she should ever have to feel that fear.
on friday night i came across an instagram post by a white woman calling out fellow white folx and asking how they want to be remembered. it’s a conversation my friend nick and i had in early june in the wake of george floyd’s killing. it’s easy to look back on slavery, on hitler’s germany, the jim crow south, and to boldly claim you wouldn’t have complied, but there’s no way to know that. this is your chance to prove it. when the history books are written and include this season of ongoing racial injustice and white supremacy, which side of history will you fall on? will you be one of the people who spoke up, who educated yourself and others, who advocated for black lives to your friends and family and congressional representatives? or will you sit silently, complicit in what is happening? this is the time to prove you would have been on the right side of history in the past, by being on the right side of it now. speak up. use your voice. make it known far and wide that what happened on wednesday is not okay and will not be tolerated.
i’m lucky. i live in a bubble of privilege. my family and friends have the same views i do, the same values, support the same causes and issues. i have never had to end a relationship or cut anyone close to me out of my life because of our opposing opinions. i live in a liberal neighborhood in which lawns are peppered with signs advocating for black lives, for the lgbtq+ community, for science, for human rights. i often smile to myself as i walk along the streets, basking in the safety and comfort i feel. but i also know not everyone gets to feel that. my skin might not be white, but i am protected by the myth of the ‘model minority’ [don’t even get me started on that nonsense] and am therefore not seen as threatening or to be avoided.
i don’t know where i’m going with this. i don’t know what the purpose of this post is. what i know is that what happened on wednesday is unacceptable. white supremacists walked into the capitol and laid siege to what is supposed to be the symbol of democracy in our country. they trashed offices, stole items, broke windows, and were calmly escorted out with no real urgency and allowed to go about their business. their goal was to disrupt members of congress from certifying the november 2020 election results, but what they did was actually the opposite: when congress finally reconvened, many of the republican senators who initially planned to object to the election counts changed course and voted to certify the results. but the ramifications of their actions will live on, because we have finally seen a lot of hard truths in action, including that the ‘blue lives matter’ movement was not actually about protecting police but about continuing to oppress black lives.
so what is my point? i don’t know that i have one. but i know that these conversations need to be had, and i want to make it abundantly clear where i stand. i might have a small sphere of influence, but it is still my responsibility to make sure i am speaking up and creating space for those whose voices have been silenced for centuries.
i still have a long way to go, and i am going to make mistakes along the way, but we’ll never make progress until we all decide that what happened last week absolutely cannot happen again. ever.