What do I do?  What do We do?  

I’m sitting with my grandparents and watching their news of choice, Fox News. For many obvious reasons, I haven’t spent much time watching Fox before this, but seeing as it’s one of two English language news channels in Cuernavaca and my grandparents have the remote, I don’t have a lot of choices.  It provides an infuriating, but fascinating insight into another world.  What is so clear to me is that Trump is a symptom of the disease, a distraction from the real issue.  A legitimately terrifying distraction, but a distraction nonetheless.  For as long as systemic racism remains, Trump remains.

So what do I do?  What do we do?

Alfred Olango.  Mentally ill.  Unarmed.  His sister sought help on his behalf, a decision which turned her brother into a statistic- Alfred Olango, 2016’s #217.  Take a moment and think about that.  You call 911 to help your brother, and those sworn to serve and protect, kill him.  How do you cope with that?  Rest in Power, Alfred Olango.  Please forgive us.  Or don’t.  I understand. I don’t understand.

What do I do?  What do we do?

Tyree King, age 13.  Age 13.  Keith Scott, traumatic brain injury, picking up his son from school.  Terence Crutcher, the “big bad dude” whose car broke down.  In one September week, a mother loses her son, a child loses his father, a wife loses her husband.

What do I do?  What do we do?

Our silence is deafening.  Our absent rage eating at us from the inside.  But we can only pretend for so long.  Pretend that we’re not wired this way…

The blog Restructure! commenting on neuroscience research showing that white people lack empathy for people of color:

I then realized that the vast majority of White Americans could not empathize with brown people at a very basic level…For most White Americans, brown people dying just meant flickers on the television screen about something happening far away. They didn’t feel the overwhelming anger and sadness they would normally feel when someone they know dies without reason. They couldn’t see the full reality of what death means, when the people who die are brown.

How can I rewire?  How can we rewire?

If we can’t feel them, we can’t understand.  And if we can’t understand, we won’t act.  We can start by seeking out the voices of people of color, in particular black voices.  Read books and articles and blog posts by black authors. Follow them on social media so that you are reading about their pain, terror, and rage, their joy, kindness, and systemic critique on a daily basis. Enter their world and hear their experience.

That’s how to build empathy.  But what is white empathy without white action to those who don’t live safe, peaceful lives because they were born with what our ancestors deemed the wrong color pigment?

What can I do? What can we do?

We can Act.  We can do something.  We can admit that we’re scared- it’s ok.  Admit that we don’t know what to do- it’s ok. But acknowledge that fear, and then think about what it would be like to have your sister or brother, or your mom or dad, or your child, killed by the police.  Think about what it would be like to hear that businesses are legally protected to discriminate against you because of your natural hair style.  That writers who look like you and come from your community are harassed and threatened for simply bringing attention to the myriad injustices you face daily.

Here and here are helpful guides to overcoming our discomfort and showing up for our fellow humans. Again, I get it, it’s hard…until juxtaposed against the everyday experience of people of color.  The desperation of the situation should be all we need to overcome this fear. Find a BLM meeting or rally, and show up. If you’re in LA, stop by and support those who are camped out at LA City Hall demanding the police chief be held accountable and fired.  Listen first, then ask questions. “How can I help? How can I be of use?”  Call your congressperson.  Call your senator.  Demand justice for those incarcerated by an unjust legal system, demand the demilitarization of the police force.

To those already participating, what else?  How else can we show up?

No longer can we sit on the sidelines.  No longer can we watch our fellow citizens be systematically intimidated, harassed, discriminated against, and murdered, while going about our daily lives.  Now is the time for we the white people to stand next to our brothers and sisters of color and demand justice and equity.  Showing incredible restraint and empathy to this point, many of them have rightfully given up on us already.  But the opportunity for us to do the right thing and stand with them is right there for us to take.  We can do this.  We can lead by example, and teach our children how to overcome their fears and chose love and fairness over complacency and racism.

What do you think?  Really.  I’m interested.  Do you care about this?  Would you act?  Do you care but wouldn’t act?  How can we have this conversation?  What’s the best format?

What can I do?  What can we do?

*Photo credit


2 thoughts on “What do I do?  What do We do?  

  1. I appreciate your passion- my one thought is community building. Peace breeds peace. Anger breeds anger. We need to reach out- all of us from all angles of the issue- and build a community against hate. End violence and learn from each other. We can help each other create a safe community for everyone. All teachers don’t abuse or take advantage of students, and all police officers don’t use excessive force on citizens. Community building brings knowledge and peace to strained relationships- it takes involvement- service to communities- anger and violence will not solve our social problems.


    1. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtfulness, Vince. I definitely agree that community building is a must to bridging the massive gap in trust and understanding between white people and people of color (broadly speaking). Unfortunately, as long as we have racist policies being enacted by the elite class and supported by the white working class, anger and violence will continue, and understandably so.

      Solutions solutions solutions.

      I think we need implicit bias training. Everywhere. In schools, district offices, and school boards, where the future can be impacted. Obviously in police departments. Churches, offices, universities, the sports world. Everywhere. Once we can see our own biases, we can hopefully understand each other better. And then we enact political change to effect the policy making.

      Easy as that!

      Oh wait…

      Thanks again for the comment, I appreciate brother.

      Liked by 1 person

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