When faced with injustice or tragedy I’m the type of person who stays silent. I just feel like the awkward part of me emerges. This part of me that doesn’t relate, or doesn’t understand how to say the right thing. So out of fear for saying the wrong thing, I say nothing. I think that feeling resonates with a lot of people.
Recently a woman, someone I consider hilarious, inspiring, and awesome, posted on a public forum that she was scared to do her job. Essentially, she feared how clients would treat her based on her dark skin. I posted a simple message:
“This is a perspective I know exists, but I’ve never seen anyone actually living it. I’m sorry for your struggle, and I’m sorry that you would feel unsafe because of the color of your skin. It isn’t ok, and it isn’t fair.”
A seemingly simple message. Well someone corrected my message. She told me that she was calling me out. She said the way I phrased my statement was one of condescending sympathy. At first I was paralyzed, my intion was absolutely not to belittle anyone. That is never my intention. And then I was mad. How dare she twist my words? As I recently discovered, and continue to recognize, anger stems from other deeper emotions.
I wasn’t mad, I was scared. I was scared that when she called me out it would keep others from lending their support. I was scared that her critique of my post would keep me from speaking out against injustice.
I never once felt like I said the wrong thing. There probably was a better way to say it, but my message was crystal clear- everyone should feel safe in social situations. So I responded to her saying essentially just that. She may mean well, but calling out someone who means well rarely does any good.
The people of color liked what I had to say. Can I also note that saying people of color makes me feel icky? It makes me feel exclusive. Maybe I’m naive, but can’t we all just be people? People who strive to make the right choice, and be kind, or at least decent, to each other. Is there a PC way to say ‘people with dark skin’? I know African-American is off the list because not all dark skinned people are from Africa, but I don’t actually know what to say and that makes this topic all the more challenging.
Anyway- the people who I was lending support took it. They said that what you say isn’t as important as what you stand for. If you are like me, and you stay quiet because you don’t know what to say work past that. It’s important that we all stand for social justice.
I also feel like I never know the whole story. How can I have an opinion without all the details of the event? Maybe they did have prior records. Maybe they were reaching for their gun. Maybe they were a dirty cop. Maybe they did just make a poor choice. At the end of the day I don’t actually want to pick a side on these issues. I’m uncomfortable talking about police brutality, and I’m uncomfortable talking about Black Lives Matter.
I absolutely hate making statements because I don’t want to make the wrong one. But maybe if I talk more it will become more comfortable. Being able to comfortably have constructive discussion about social justice is important. I think it is important to work towards being more inclusive. Be more accepting. Spread more love, regardless of who you have hate for. If you’re like me, continue trying to say the right thing even when you don’t know how.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Junior.