I’m just a white girl from the suburbs. I grew up in Boulder in a predominately white area. The black kids in my school were of the same socioeconomic background and we either were or were not friends based on our interests. I grew up in a Cosby Show world, idyllic, and thought nothing of our differences and everything of our similarities. Growing up I was certain that racism was a thing of the past, as I never saw it in action until I moved just outside of Oakland. I am sure now as an adult looking back, that the kids in my life who were black would not have agreed with that assessment. Even if I never saw it, even if I grew up in a very loving equal environment, I am sure beyond a shadow of a doubt they experienced racism, in covert every day actions and words I was not aware of and as they grew older and ventured out into the world in overt ways.
I’m just a white girl from the suburbs and I am afraid my voice isn’t much, but I try to lend it to the fray when I see things. There are times when I speak out and am chastised by other white people. I can almost time it on Twitter from the moment I tweet something to the time someone trolling a hashtag has to accuse me of making it about race (it is) or takes me to task for you know…whatever racist trope is the flavor of the day for them. Then there are times I inadvertently use a word or phrase that means something entirely different to the black community than it does to me. There are times when I speak out and am chastised by those I attempt to speak up with. I lick my wounds and think what an impossible situation. Maybe I won’t say anything. Then I realize I am being a baby about it, I get my feelings hurt because even with the best of intentions sometimes I mess up. Big whoop. Sometimes I worry that I might step on their toes by speaking up, the community doesn’t need a white girl speaking for them…but speaking FOR them is not my intention. It’s not my story to tell, but I can amplify their stores. I can make sure they know this white girl hears their stories, sees them. Even now I am afraid I am saying something wrong. I have decided that to say nothing is much worse than saying something wrong.
There have been many good conversations where I was given help on how to speak out, I take those instructions to heart, I thank those who are willing to help me be an ally better and more effectively. I am grateful many, despite what currently seems like an atmosphere of open season, can see that this white girl from the suburbs believes in equality. This girl feels like she woke up in 1959. This girl can’t believe her white girl blue eyes at the shit that is going down. This girl has three kids and is doing her level best so that maybe they won’t have to speak out against the shooting of their unarmed friends and the burning of churches because maybe the more we speak out the less it will happen.
I’m not looking for kudos or accolades for speaking out, I’m not patting myself on the back. But this is on my mind a lot lately.
I am not alone in feeling like I can’t say anything right or afraid to speak out and do it “wrong” and yes, it does make me and others feel like saying nothing. I see it on Facebook a lot actually. Cry us a river right? What a luxurious thing with which to be concerned. We spoke out wrongly, we phrased something in an unintentionally insulting way…we gotta stop shutting up and say “well, now I learned that one. ”
I have to do that. It is hard to be an ally and not quite know how to say things, because sometimes micro aggressive speech is so inherent to our experiences we literally don’t know. And giving the benefit of the doubt to me, the white girl from the suburbs, is sometimes a really hard leap of faith to make for those whose churches are being burned. Whose community is being gunned down while praying and oh, the shooter? Captured alive.
Unlike a young man just looking at a gun for sale at a store.
One CVS burns to the ground and the news rehashes it for a month, seven churches burn down and there’s nothing…just NOTHING except rationalizations, and then only for a quick second.
I speak up because this is so very wrong.
We gotta leap and speak up even if we interpret language differently. We gotta learn that some words are loaded in a way to the black community that they aren’t to the white. WE need to take this first step in our daily lives.
It might be a small thing, but small things build bigger things.
Because I might say something wrong, but I would rather say it wrong that say nothing. To be silent is to be complicit.
I am just a white girl from the suburbs, I don’t know how much difference my voice will make but I will keep speaking out.