I'm crying because my heart is broken. My heart is broken because I feel such grief over what has happened in Charleston. I read the stories, I look at the pictures, I read the posts on social media, and my heart is in pieces. I feel the weight of the victims's grief and anger, and I know that what I feel isn't a fraction of the pain they feel.
I'm writing. I'm writing because of the division that our country faces. There is such a deep racial divide in this country that it will break us all. One side shouts racism, the other says no.
One of the most powerful things I saw today was something a friend posted about the fear of talking about racism, and I think that she hit the nail on the head. She said:
As a white person, I am guilty of being afraid of talking about race. I'm afraid because I don't want anyone to think that I am racist. I'm not by any means, but this isn't going to be a post to talk about how not-racist the white girl is. I would like to respectfully try to answer her question.Why are people so afraid to talk about race? Why can't people accept that some people do not like people of color? If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck.....more than likely it's a duck!!! Racism is EVILNESS!!! As a person of color it is so disrespectful for people who have never experienced racism as a black person to say "race doesn't exist." Or "this is not a hate crime" that's EXACTLY what this EVILNESS was!!! Deeply frustrated on top of all these other feelings.
I want to start by ardently agreeing with her. If it looks like racism, it is racism. This horrible tragedy that has happened in Charleston is blatant racism. Period. A white shooter entered the sanctuary of a black congregation and opened fire in cold blood. It was a hate crime, and it was evil. Pure evil, in its lowest form.
Just as she said, "some people do not like people of color." No one can, or should, argue with that. To disagree with that is, also as she said, "disrespectful for people who have never experienced racism." Racism is alive and eating away at the core of our society from all angles. I can only speak for some white people, but I think that I can at least try to explain our perspective.
My personal perspective is as a white woman who teaches in an high needs, urban school. I love the kids I teach as if they were my own, and my biggest goal as a teacher is to help my students find their voice and show the world that they are more than just a lousy statistic, but a person with a powerful voice. I don't see myself as a racist. I'm not perfect by any means, but I would die for my kids without a second thought.
Now. Knowing what you have read about my perspective, and assuming I am telling the truth, what if I had made a comment on social media about how Michael Brown was a criminal and the officer was in the right when he opened fire. Did I say that as a racist white person or did I say that as someone who thought she had objectively evaluated evidence? My (very hypothetical) statement could be right, or it could be wrong. The problem, and where I believe that fear originates, is from the snapshot that the Social Media Police take based on that one comment. That snapshot could ruin my life.
I am not naive enough to say that there is no more racism. I don't know how prevalent it is or isn't, but I have not experienced it firsthand, and as my friend said, I will not disrespect people of color by making assumptions about it. But I can speak about the perspective of people who do not want this to be about racism. This horrific event is another example of how racism does exist. It is not necessarily that people don't want to acknowledge it, but more that it is another part of the picture that magnifies racism and seems to create a divide among Americans.
The media paints a picture that shows white on black crime and sometimes it makes me, and other white people, feel that all minorities hate white people. In my opinion, this is just as dangerous. I don't want to be hated. But I also do not think that this picture is true. People of color with whom I interact with on a daily basis don't hate me. I like to think that I'm quite lovable.
Some people will deny that this is about race, and as an idealist, I think that it is because they are tired of the divide. It may be naive and idealistic of me to think this, but I think that there are two things that we can do to avoid further division.
First, we have to acknowledge that this was a hate crime. It is awful that in 2015 it happened, but it did. It was evil, and the word "tragedy" doesn't begin to express how vile and horrible the event was. It exists. It is here. It is meant to cause division and for us to hate one another. The second thing that we have to do is we HAVE to unite on this. All races, all religions, all ideologies, all everything.
We have to acknowledge it, but we cannot let it win. Otherwise, we are all doomed.