An open letter to my black friends, peers & the community

You’ve changed the world.

I have taken the last week to really listen to you. To try to educate myself better, listen deeply to your cries for help, your personal experiences, your worries and frustrations. 

What I’ve come to understand is that even though I’ve always loved you, cared about you and knew there was still racial injustice & knew police brutality was still an issue, I didn’t hear you as loud as I should have. 

I’ve allowed myself to hide in the safety & silence that comes with my white privilege. 

But look around,

You’ve changed the world.

You’ve brought 400+ cities across all 50 states and 13 other countries together. You’ve done something that nobody else has ever done. You’ve rewritten the history books.

You said enough is enough and you forced us into necessary discomfort. 

In recent years, I’ve come to understand to a certain extent that racial injustice and police brutality still exists. I understood & supported Colin Kaepernick taking a knee and I listened to your stories and personal experiences, but I didn’t do enough. I didn’t do enough because I didn’t know there was anything I could say or do, so I didn’t. 

We didn’t listen to all of your cries for help because we were stuck in the safety of our white privilege. We were stuck in our white privilege while you’ve been fighting this pandemic on a daily basis. No, not COVID-19. Racism. 

While we had the choice to stay silent, you didn’t have a choice because you were fighting and we didn’t listen. 

I made a Facebook post about my experience at a protest in Downtown Columbus on June 2. In one part I wrote:

We walked past all of the businesses that were boarded up from the broken glass that occurred Thursday night. You know what I saw when I saw those businesses boarded up?

Pain.

Pain, hurting, frustration, disappointment, from centuries of slavery, beatings, rape, innocent murders, racial injustice, tired of being silent, decades of broken promises and being unheard on the land that their ancestors built.

Did you listen when Colin Kaepernick took a knee?

If not, I bet you are listening now. I know I am. On a deeper level than I was before.

I’ve been guilty of saying, “I don’t see color!”, which is great, but that completely dismisses the fact that racism & brutality still exists and I (& the rest of the white community) have been silent. 

In another part of that Facebook post, I wrote:

We all sat on the grass and listened to stories of what this moment meant to them. Their voices were raspy & tired from their 6th night of protesting. While tired, they were energized from what this moment meant to them.

One of them said he talked to an older man that told him that he was passing on what he didn’t finish in the 60s.

THE SIXTIES AND WE ARE STILL DOING THE SAME THING IN 2020.

I have to be honest with you. Growing up, I thought everyone was treated equal. I thought everything was fixed during the Civil Rights Movement and there were only a handful of people who were still racist. But, I didn’t realize people really still experienced racism on a daily basis, I had no idea that this was still a systemic issue.

Hearing stories and how passionate and exhausted the community is from the lack of improvement in our society made me realize how serious this really is. 

In that Facebook post, I continued to say:

Right before we were getting ready to head back to the state house, they said to us “Listen, the same cops that were nice to us at the State House are knocking down those water stations now, ready to shoot us with tear gas and rubber bullets. We aren’t going to run away, we are going to link arms and walk through it together.”

So that’s what we did.

In that moment, I knew I was experiencing the most American thing I have ever experienced in my entire life. No, not any 4th of July fireworks show. No, it was walking linked arms, all races and ages, walking together towards a common goal.

Even though I was mentally preparing myself to get tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets, it was the safest I felt because I knew that even if one person got hurt, everyone would rush to their rescue.

You’ve knocked me- all of us- out of alignment. You forced all of us to be uncomfortable, and thank goodness you did. 

I know this is a hard time. I know it’s scary and frustrating, but I want you to know that I am proud of you. You have done something that nobody has ever done before and you have truly made all of us realize how serious this truly is.

Here are some things you have taught me:

  • Even though I love you & have always supported you, I haven’t done enough
  • That I have allowed myself to stay silent in my white privilege
  • The level of racism you still experience on a daily basis
  • What truly matters 

Look around you! You’ve changed the world. You’ve rewritten the history books.

This doesn’t stop here. A couple weeks of protests and a black picture isn’t enough and I understand that.

Moving forward, I promise to:

  • Continue educating myself
  • Do my best to educate others
  • Stand up to racism that I see online and in person
  • Stand up to my racist family members
  • Continue donating to causes related to the black communities
  • Buying from black owned businesses
  • Listening to you

My actions and promises aren’t limited to this list, but it’s a start. I’m sorry I haven’t done enough before, but I promise that I will continue doing better.

I hear you. I love you. I’m proud of you. This is just the beginning.

You’ve changed the world. You’ve rewritten the history books.

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