I am a white woman. The loves of my life are black.
My husband is tall and broad, and regardless of what he wears, he can’t seem to avoid looking like a “scary black dude.” Even though that category does not actually exist and is, in fact, imaginary.
Seriously, though: Aside from on television and in the movies, have you actually ever really had an interaction with a scary, black dude? I mean for real — not just what you perceived as some suspicious move from across the street.
A friend on Facebook recently mentioned that when she was young she was told to cross the street if she ever saw a black man. She was trying to get over it — the fear that had been ingrained in her; the philosophy she was urged to carry on. But that early lesson stuck with her for years.
The truth is, we are well past the time of “getting over it.” The myth of the “scary black man” stretches as far back as slavery, when it was first concocted. During the age of Reconstruction, it was useful for economic reasons and to maintain white supremacy.
But here we are, some 200 years later, and it still persists.
Despite whatever you may think about black crime (which is likely inaccurate) you have no cause to be scared of black men.
So please, America — STOP. We’re only hurting each other by allowing it to go on.
Of course, I know what you’re probably thinking right now. That the reason I care about social justice, and why I speak openly about it, is because I’m married to a black man; and because my son is mixed and my daughter is black. You may imagine the selfish aspects that attend me. My need to protect them. The same way any mother knows deep in her soul that if there are bullets aimed at your love-lights, you are going to step in front.
But I’m not passionate about social justice just because my family is black. I don’t care about police brutality because of my own certain soul-death if the police someday shoot my husband. (And believe me, they’ve come close.)
That’s not why I care.
Love has absolutely nothing to do with it. Empathy does.
I am talking to you, white women.
You moms. You women interested in learning more about diversity. You women with blonde kids who have hardly any black friends — or none at all.
I am talking to you.
You do not need to be close to someone of color to care about this mess we’re in as a country.
You need to care because you are a human being.
And if you want to be a decent and ethical one — one who practices empathy for others, and passes it on to her children — you need to care whether or not you have any emotional relationship to the issue.
Maybe you cried for Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling and the hundreds — actually, thousands — of other people of color who have been unjustifiably killed throughout our nation’s history. Maybe you’ve even shed tears for the person behind our latest trending hashtag: Terence Crutcher.
I was right there with you.
But our crying does not help — we have work do. We need to act.
We need to stop being scared of people who “don’t look like us,” and resist all racist stereotypes.
We need to talk to our kids and make certain they do not grow up racist — even casually racist.
We need to vote for candidates who oppose racism.
We need to openly support #BlackLivesMatter, respect Colin Kaepernick’s right to take a knee, and get behind other peaceful protests that aim to end racism.
And we need to listen to the honest testimonies and experiences of people of color, and learn from them.
Just because you’re not experiencing something ourselves doesn’t mean it isn’t your fight, too.
None of my children are autistic, but I care deeply about autism awareness. Neither are they gender-fluid, or suffering from depression, or bullied in school, or living with special needs. But I support all of those causes; and I bet you do, too.
But we can empathize and cry and share articles on Facebook all we want. That doesn’t help. Every cause needs active, open support; and communities of color need widespread, mainstream support right now from the white community. Without any strings.
You may not ever walk in my shoes, or even know a person like me. But we’re not so different, you and I. You probably don’t want your husband, son, uncle, brother, dad or best friend to be gunned down when their car stalls, either.
But the reason why is not just because that would break your heart to lose them from your life.
The reason why is because it is wrong on every possible level. The reason why is because it violates every basic human right. Because it goes against every moral and ethical code we know.
You and I may love our families with every fiber of our being. But our love for them is beside the point. What about our love for humanity? Why can’t we all love that as fiercely?
We need to stand up together against racism, in every possible form. Because we are human beings. Because we care about the world we are leaving behind for our children.
Maybe then at least we have a fighting chance.More On