I am a white male. I cannot give first-hand accounts of prejudice and racism. I cannot put an “I” next to stereotyping or bigotry. I was not in Florida, Missouri, Oklahoma, or, most recently, Charleston, South Carolina. And, try as I might through media exposure and online articles, I cannot put myself in that church on that Wednesday night. Literally, metaphorically, or emotionally. I cannot feel the pain of racism at the degree that so many feel it.
I have been too afraid to write about racism for fear of saying the wrong words, making generalizations, or placing majority culture where it does not belong, commentating on a travesty and evil that is not mine to commentate on.
But I cannot ignore racism. I do not want to be another one of the majority who shakes their head at evil and moves on. I cannot turn away.
It was easy for me to witness racist expressions and events with a sense of removed indignation. I would agree that they were wrong and did not belong in society, but I would move on. I would “grieve” racism for a few minutes, turn my head, and return to my own, privileged life. To the grades I had to make, the meetings I had to attend, or the people I wanted to visit. Racism existed and was evil, but I was able to ignore it.
Students on my campus would anonymously post obscene, racist statements online. Mexican jokes, Black jokes, and Asian jokes thrived among those “privileged” enough to decide what was humorous and what was not. Subtle racism through stereotyping pervaded my college landscape. Racism was all around me, and I ignored it. Then one night students of color chalked racist experiences they had witnessed across campus. I saw the comments, the chalk, the accusations and felt offended. I wasn’t the one posting obscene comments online. I strived to celebrate diversity. I wasn’t racist.
But I was silent.
I was decidedly and consciously ignorant. I was ignorant to the subtle racism that occurred daily because it wasn’t directed at me. But my friends and other students of color couldn’t ignore the comments. They had to accept them as reality and face the uncertainty of an environment that claimed diversity without standing up for it. My friends faced racism, and I stood silent.
I cannot be silent any longer about racism. I cannot use my privilege to whitewash the world in jargon like “equality” and “freedom.” I cannot write articles celebrating the beauty of life without also standing for those who do not experience that beauty because of racist human beings.
Being a member of a faith that claims unswerving love to those who are weak and redemption for those who are afflicted, I am sacrificing a spiritual calling and committing an egregious disservice of love by not standing alongside the prejudiced. As a member of the “majority,” I can no longer use my privilege to indulge in the ignorance of the evil that is racism.
I choose to listen to those with more wisdom and experience, to learn from life stories that are not my own, and to stand with the sea of upright souls who are walking the road of reconciliation.
I apologize for my silence.