WE ARE HERE AGAIN. Another #unarmed Black man murdered under the guise of a citizen’s arrest. #AhmaudArbery and #SeanReed are the latest trending hashtags attempting to shine light on injustice. This time my anger feels different. I’m enraged. Maybe it’s because we’re here again. It’s more likely because I know that my voice is not enough. My pain will linger; longer than I want. Seventy-four days after Ahmaud’s murder, the two white men were arrested. Seventy-four. However, when [white] privilege spoke, with 36 hours of public outcry, the process of justice was initiated. Thirty six hours vs. seventy four days. Sinking in… A deeper sense of sadness is ever present as I also realize that I am not as free as I once believed. This makes me jealous of the freedom that [white] privilege provides.
silence is harmful
When privilege is silent, unjust systems reflect sizeable inequities and marginalized people live with the pain. The Black people of Brunswick, GA were speaking about this injustice immediately and yet no arrests were made. Privilege protected. Privilege remained silent. The passivity of leaders who embolden white supremacy and the oppression of the marginalized has sickened me once again. It’s sickening because America still clearly hears a predominant voice before all others; that of the white American.
I’m learning that many people of privilege are afraid that their words may fail them in times like these so they fail to speak, call, text, or listen. They fail us. Once again privilege exhalts itself rather than those on the margins. It chooses comfort. Once again white fragility wins. Once again I (and other people of color) are expected to single handedly bear the burden of racial injustice and love an America that repeatedly ignores the implications of its sin. America has not love Black people well. America has not loved people of color well.
A new lament has surfaced in addition to black bodies being devalued – the power privilege is grossly underestimated. When people of privilege in every sector and class joined their voices with those on the margins chanting “I #RunWithMaud,” things changed. If you love me. If you love God. If you love your neighbor. Pull up. Stop making excuses for standing with the other. Now is the time to use your voice in a public manner. Let your privilege shine in a way that brings glory to God, elevates the voice/stories of people of color, and fights for equitable systems. Bree Newsome and James Tyson project a model of what it looks like for white allies to allow their lament to move them to action. Bree Newsome was not alone the day she scaled a pole and took the Confederate flag down in an act of protest following the massacre of the Charleston 9. James Tyson, a white activist, was literally her foundation of support to help her begin her climb. They were both arrested that day. As my friend’s husband, Nii Ato, processed his grief regarding #ahmaudarbery, he stated that we don’t just need allies at this time…we need accomplices. I couldn’t agree more. Ask yourself, what skin do you have in the game? As a Black woman, my skin color forces me into the game whether fatigued, injured, or down right helpless. I could use your help. Truth is, America has never really listened to the Black voice alone.
“Black America needs to see that white people are willing to step up and put some skin in the game.”James Tyson, Charlotteobserver.com
longing for freedom
I’m grateful that so many of my white friends and others of privilege responded so swiftly and publicly to Ahmaud’s murder. If I’m honest, I have been wondering why. Was this bandwagon behavior or “hashtag activism”? Have my friends changed their perspective due to proximity to the poor? Have their friendships changed and become more diverse? Did this experience produce a different level of empathy because #neighborhoodsowhite? I know how much my friends value running and the freedom it provides. I’m jealous of the freedom with which my white friends are able to go for a run or a walk without worry. I’ve never felt that free. I’m always worried when I walk or go for a bike ride alone. Always. I’m jealous that they don’t know what it’s like to experience to have someone view your physical body as a threat. As criminal.
I imagine white people could envision themselves “running” in the Brunswick neighborhood just as Ahmaud was running. I imagine they could empathize with the initial feeling of joy and ease Ahmaud had they day as he began his run. I imagine that for the first time, they could put themselves in the unarmed victim’s shoes. This Black man was “just running.” He was not in a Black neighborhood. He was not selling cigarretes. He was doing something that people of privilege do. There were less calls for Ahmaud to justify his humanity. For the first time, the hashtag is one of solidarity. I.run.WITH.Ahmaud. It is not just his name. What a powerful lesson empathy teaches here. Empathy makes us incapable of apathy and illuminates our humanity. When we can see ourselves, we can see the other. It’s been said several times on social media that authorities only responded because “we” saw the video. The public has seen many videos of unarmed Black people being shot and they didn’t speak out. I believe differently.
Privilege didn’t speak out because it saw the video. It spoke out because it could see itself in the video. #RunWithMaudPrecious Jones
I hope the Black community gains more accomplices to justice than allies. More people willing to pray AND act. Friends of [white] privilege, I dare you to live truly unafraid because some of us will never be able to do so. America still listens and responds to you.
May our lament leave us with bruised knees and lift us up from that position into courtrooms, classrooms, and boardrooms where we use our voices to cry out.