I've learned two things over the past several years:
1) It's hard for people to say the words "racism exists."
2) We use excuses. A lot.
3) The more open my mind becomes, the less I share.
I used to write about every situation that came down. My audience wasn't as broad and I felt semi-protected (!) in putting my opinions out there for the world to read. I say semi-protected knowing full well the privilege I am granted in being a white woman. There, I said it. I know that though I may incite heated arguments, disagreements, or a all-around nodding of heads in agreement - that in the end I will still remain a white woman who tends to side with the minority (at least in our area) of things "better left unsaid." And I will still be able to give my opinion without being bashed mercilessly, or at the very least called a "bleeding heart liberal" which is a wretched thing to call anyone. Wasn't Jesus an open, bloody, bleeding heart for those around him?
Now, I hesitate - and mull over - every single word I put out there.
I tremble when I say the hard things.
But there is no time to tremble.
Our world is close at hand, as close as the glance of an eye at words spoken on a post...through a picture...on a tweet...or through a snap. All is seen and I am quite sure that all is filed away in the memory banks of most to be brought out when the right post or thread spools itself out.
We are separated into neat, tidy piles of humanity starting with Republicans to the right, Democrats to the left, and the rest of us clinging by fragile tendrils to what little purchase remains in between. Christians, you're over there with those beliefs, and those of you who believe things should be a bit more equal, you sit over there with those people. We file people by what they say, do, and especially say on social media.
I'm not sure I want to be so easily defined.
We are a world of sound bites and chunks of flesh ripped away bit by bit. We know immediately that if a black person protests, defends, or is accused that they are guilty until innocent. They are thugs, by nature, to be handled and pressed down.
When Mike Brown was killed all I heard for days was, "But he stole cigars!" As if that meant he needed to die.
"Trayvon was a thug who smoked pot!" As if that meant he deserved to die.
"But that black girl was talking back to the officer!" As if that meant she deserved to be thrown to the ground and SAT ON by the cop. She is 14 years old.
If one is of Latin descent, then they are most likely "illegal" or "working under the table" and had "better go back to where they belong." They are treated as guilty before innocent, and this I know well and will say no more.
If a white person is caught doing something heinous - even committing mass murder - we carefully sift through what we know - in very grave tones - what might be, and deem them to be possibly "unstable" or "mentally off" in some capacity. There are never words being spoken like, "That white guy was a thug. A terrorist." We hear how he was quiet and reserved and got good grades in school. We don't hear how he may have smoked pot, drank a bit, or was a menace to society. Because white kids do all those things. Every day.
Our categories are swiftly brought out, like a menu to be read off and memorized, so that we can say what is happening and put it in its place. I have been appalled and heartsick at what has happened in Charleston. Nine beautiful souls shot down in cold, cold blood by another soul that although also beloved by God, chose specifically to claim these lives because of their skin color.
You may argue that fact if you want. Though you might want to know the shooter said this himself.
What makes me the most sad is the denial I see on social media...on TV...and elsewhere. It crawls right up inside my heart and drops it quick like a punch to the stomach.
From a comment thread on FB:
"I also say that yes Dylann Roof committed a racially motivated mass murder and I condemn his act...but my goodness he looks like such a young boy. It's killing me that this child (and yes I know he's 21 but still that is SO YOUNG) has so much hate in his heart. Hate doesn't kill hate. Only love conquers hate. Condemn the act. Love the sinner. I'm praying for the victims but also for this young man. Tragic all around!!" Find that thread here.
Why do we excuse? Why do we explain away? Why does darker skin mean older and more dangerous? Why does white skin mean young and seemingly innocent? Worthy of pulling a gun first? And before you can say "but" please listen...
Admitting that racism exists can only serve to set you free from excuses.
Can you say the words with me?
Dylann Roof committed a racially-motivated crime. He chose the church, he walked in and sat with them for an hour, then he pulled out a gun, told them he was there to kill black people, pulled the trigger and reloaded, and nine people were murdered.
Say it again
Now say it slower
See the horror for what it is
Acknowledge that racism exists
Roll it around on your tongue
Let it slide slowly off until it feels comfortable
Stop saying the word "but"
Then stop making excuses