Let’s be more than bystanders
To the editor:
The recent egregious acts of racism that occurred in Minneapolis have created collective outrage nationwide, but George Floyd isn’t an anomaly and Facebook outrage isn’t going to stop things like this from continuing to occur in America. Acts like that don’t happen on accident. These atrocities are the result of a system that allows minority groups to be oppressed, and those of us born with white privilege to pretend like it’s not happening.
A lot of people who look like me and who grew up in a small town like I did simply don’t fully understand the current state of being a minority in America. How could we? We’re born and raised in a climate with an overwhelming majority of white people. We can go our whole lives never being affected by racism directly or indirectly. We can say and do offensive things and never get called out on it. If someone does speak up and say, “hey man, that’s actually pretty racist,” we get hostile. Saying or doing something racist doesn’t seem to bother us, but once someone throws that word out, we take offense.
I’m sure you’re thinking “not all white people”, “but I’M not a racist”. That may be true, but you actively participate in a system that allows these terrible acts to happen, and even if claim that you don’t perpetuate the system, you certainly benefit from it as a white person. Our privilege is easy to ignore because trying to help would mean injecting ourselves into an issue that we believe doesn’t pertain to us. Why would we? It’s much easier to take on the role of the bystander. While you should be outraged, that simply is not enough. You don’t have to go out and protest, but you can be more than a bystander. We need to be more than bystanders.
I’m asking you to take a step back and realize that we will never achieve progress and equality for all people unless those of us born in an advantageous position are willing to consider that maybe things aren’t fair for everyone. I’m asking you to help others even if it means confronting your own friends and families when they are in the wrong. I’m asking this because the result of our collective inaction and unwillingness to help those who face a struggle that we never will, creates a world where people of color are maliciously murdered in the streets.
White folks, the bad news is that we are the problem, but the good news is we are all in a position to help. The next time a person of color, or any minority, chooses to tell you about an incident or racism or oppression, take that as an opportunity to listen. Try to understand and ask questions, but above all else, don’t get defensive, don’t explain why that person is wrong or how you personally are not a racist. Listen. Understand. Help. That is the only way things will ever get better.