A little over a week has passed since George Floyd’s murder was made public. I have spent this week processing the comments I have read on social media, what I have seen on television news, and how leaders either disappoint or inspire me in the face of inequality.
Usually my blogs are about education, awareness, and advocacy for those with disabilities so others can understand their differences and see their value. Finding the words for advocacy in the #blacklivesmatter movement should be no different, but I find myself struggling to express my thoughts as a 34 year-old white woman, raising two young white boys, while living my best life with limited fears. Although I might not be able to find the right words, I couldn’t sit in silence and not stand in unity with them. I am a known advocate and leader in our community, standing for equal rights and opportunities for those with disabilities. How can I be an advocate for one and not all.
Admittedly, I did not grow up around a lot of black friends or neighbors. I am from a small rural county in Kentucky, and went to a predominantly white high school, neither of which exposed me to different races or cultures. I was taught not to see color, but as an adult, I think that may be the greatest injustice of our generation. Why do I feel this was an injustice? Because, we weren’t pushed to honor and love our differences, but act as though they didn’t exist. We weren’t celebrating and learning about the differences that could make us stronger together. Instead, we thought giving children the inspirational message to not see the color, would mean that they would be treated equally. It wasn’t until I started my nonprofit and brought on my co-leader, Quincy Harris, that I had my first meaningful relationship with a black person.
I will never forget a day about a year ago when Quincy and I had yet another discussion about her being black and me being white. I have so much respect for her as my co-leader within Puzzle Pieces that those conversations provide me with an insight I never understood I needed.
The label “white privilege” is me and I had no idea.
Not to undermine the struggles, hustle, and sacrifices I have made in my journey, but conversations with Quincy made me realize that nonetheless, I epitomize white privilege. Nothing was handed to me, but that isn’t what “white privilege” means. It’s about the color of my skin allowing me grace, acceptance, understanding, certain opportunities and certain excuses.
It’s time we use our white privilege to take a stand and demand better, to spread love for all. And right now that “ALL” should have emphasis on those who are black, being their life and rights are in danger. I couldn’t think of no better way to do that than to have Quincy share her thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement. As one of the most influential persons in my life, she has inspired me to be better. Not only do I work alongside her as a co-leader within an organization we have worked together to build, but she has become a dear friend of mine. Over the last seven years she has been the person that can challenge me to think and be better. I hope that she can help provide the same awareness and personal reflection to you that she does for me.
As a black woman, I have so many concerns, but perhaps the biggest is the conversations I have to have with my son and nephews. In one breath, I don’t want to have any conversations about what’s going on in our country right now with the Black Lives Matter Movement. I want to protect their innocence. I don’t want them to live in fear like I sometimes do when it comes to being black. My son, Denim, is an 8-year-old boy who is full of life and very inquisitive.
But I know a conversation is needed. He will soon grow up and he needs to be educated on the injustice that he may experience. He must know that as he grows up to be a man, others might fear him based solely off his brown skin. God forbid my son be the next Ahmaud Arbery or George Floyd.
People think racism doesn’t exist and that’s the scary part. Owensboro Police Chief Art Elam recently said if you want to see racism “just go to the Facebook comments.” Unfortunately, in the last two weeks I have seen more and more people question why people are protesting — nothing has happened in their hometown.,
First that is not true, and secondly, does it have to happen in your hometown for you to care?
Also, I would like to address the support for law enforcement during the Black Lives Matter movement. People say cops’ lives matter. I get it and absolutely believe that all lives matter, but let me say this: Being a police officer is a profession. Meaning you have the choice. If you don’t like how things are going at your job, you have the option to stick it out or quit. Being black is not a choice. There is no way to dress it up or down or quit. No matter what I wear you will always see my dark skin first.
I have learned a couple things from all this:
1. Some people of other races, cultures and backgrounds actually care and want to have a conversation. Let them! Get uncomfortable because thats what it’s going to take.
2. Some people l have conversed with over time have changed their perspective.
3. Some people’s opinions won’t change and unfortunately we have to be OK with that.
To my dear black friends, I love you and all your Blackness. Black men I love you and pray daily that all these people can see your black greatness. Your lives matter to me and I know it matters to a lot of kick ass white people too! Be willing to have a conversation. Open the door to allow people of other races to ask questions.
I have been blessed with a few people in my life of other races whom I have built a relationship with, Amanda being one, and we are able to have open communication about our racial differences. I believe through these conversations I am able to change the narrative.
In conclusion, I will leave you with the words of my Facebook post a few days ago:
I will not be an advocate for one and not the other. I will not be the voice for one and not the other. I will not see one person’s differences and not the other.
Many of you know I am a passion advocate for those with disabilities, because my life was impacted by my brother with a disability. It is what I know. It is what I understand. It is what I feel to my core. My friends, family, and strangers have grown to accept and learn about equal rights and struggles for those with disabilities through my insight and education. And I will continue. But now we must do this for others.
2020 has been a year of history being made. We have learned to do things different, while our lives have changed in a blink of an eye. It’s time we start doing a lot of things different – and I don’t mean wearing a mask. I mean we start creating opportunities for ALL, we start valuing ALL, we stand united for ALL, we start loving ALL, we grow our understanding and appreciation for ALL, and we start to build a better community for ALL.
We have heard politicians, business leaders, and every news outlet over the past two months say in relationship to COVID-19 that : We are ALL in this together. However, I am starting to see and realize their definition of ALL isn’t the same as mine.
Our life is defined by the choices we make, and my choice is to love all, pray for all, accept all, and most importantly be kind to ALL. We can do better! Right now we need to do better and advocate and take a stand for those who are black.
It starts today!