I Was Wrong, But That’s Not Enough

A friend of mine has seen my recent Facebook posts, and has seen my “likes” or my “angry” responses to her posts. She sent me this private message last night.

 

I recall you having quite a strong aversion maybe even disdain for Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest against police brutality on black [people] by taking a knee during the national anthem. Do you still feel the same?

 

My response follows, edited to include more thoughts I had with this post (in italics).

Hi Serena. The quick answer to your question is absolutely not. But that’s not enough. I took some time this morning to go back to my archives to see what I posted. I did remember not understanding exactly what he was doing and not agreeing with it, but when I see the posts I see a much stronger viewpoint that was inexcusably ignorant, misguided, and even “parroted” (something I abhor and criticize Trump supporters for).

I don’t know when exactly my opinion changed – because I never made any public posts about it. It’s too easy to be the keyboard warrior in the moment and a week later the issue is replaced by another issue and another…which lends the impression of triviality to them which is, in too many cases, as wrong as the injustices are. I was wrong. And that’s not enough.

Colin Kaepernick exercised HIS right, as an American, to free speech, and I think it was a great way for him to open the dialogue where so often the door is slammed shut. I applaud him for the grace with which he issued his protest. It is a gross understatement that he was unfairly treated for doing so. It saddens me that his “peaceful” protest was chastised, because had he been loud and obstinate he would have been annihilated for being an “angry Black man.”  [It’s okay to be an angry white man, right? But never an angry black man.]

Either way he wasn’t going to win, and that is wrong. White Privilege allows people sometimes to get away with saying and doing things that, while they might be criticized, won’t get them fired from their job… or killed. Think about this.

I am embarrassed and sickened that I criticized him, for saying that he is privileged with his multi-million dollar contract. Maybe he could be considered privileged insofar as he had a public platform many people of color do not have – he used it because he saw the opportunity it afforded him to be the voice of his brothers and sisters. A voice that demands to be heard now and forever going forward. Who am I to judge how and where a person protests their injustices? Who are YOU to do so?

I was wrong. And in that moment I became what I never wanted to be: a part of the problem. And I was wrong because I never retracted my statement.
I can’t adequately express the deep sadness, the outrage, the RAGE I feel for black people, for people of color, for racial inequality. I say it, but I don’t know how to say it. I worry it sounds like lip service from another person with white privilege.

I worry that my black friends and my friends who are mothers of black children will be offended by what I say, because I simply can’t understand (which I carelessly and thoughtlessly did in 2016 with that Kaepernick post).

I don’t want another social media post of “words” that will soon be lost in the chasm of Everything Else that is going wrong with this country. I was wrong. And that’s not enough.

I want to do more than just say it. It’s not enough. I want to be part of the change, not add to the ineffective noise.  And clearly, I owe my friends an apology.

One post. One post I callously made nearly four years ago, still weighs on my friend’s mind. That she, or any of my friends, might even think for a moment that I sometimes pay lip service when the news calls for it and sometimes say the wrong thing, and leave them feeling like I just don’t get it, or I just don’t really care, hurts. How many others have never forgotten? This is not the person I want to be.

A friend of mine posted recently not to ask black people what “we” can do; that it is “our” job to figure it out. Is that accurate? I wonder because I wanted to ask what I can do – tell me what I can do – because I don’t want to do it wrong, or make it worse, or offend someone simply because I don’t understand.

I know white people have to do the work too, but for some, it starts with knowing where to begin.

I don’t want to hurt you or anyone. I am sorry if my careless words caused you pain and made you believe I didn’t really care or respect, or even attempt to understand. I have nothing but love and respect in my heart for you.

 I can do better. I will do better.

I’m asking all of you to consider how your words and actions are perceived by people of color. How a casual comment not meant to be condescending, just might smack of ignorance, maybe even racism. How many times have you said, “I’m not racist” or “I don’t see color/am ‘colorblind’” or “I have black friends”? THINK about how that sounds. Is that somehow a pass to continue your white privilege?

Will you be among “the appalling silence of good people”? Or will you do better?

 

“Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.”       ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

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