Wesley Bryant, Cumming, GA
I have had a lot of time to think over the past several days, and as a young white male, I strongly feel that I have a responsibility to speak out about the injustice that has plagued our country ever since it was founded. When I first saw the video of George Floyd’s death, I had to watch it again to process what I had just seen. Did that really just happen? Did a white police officer just kneel on the neck of a defenseless black man while he repeatedly pleaded for his life? Did three other officers stand idly by and watch while murder was committed right in front of them? The answer to all three of those questions is that yes, that’s exactly what happened. And as much as I shouldn’t have been surprised, I was. When I watched that video, I was genuinely surprised that an act so vile and so disgusting could still happen in today’s world. But then I thought back to some of the other names that I have heard about recently and through my life. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. Trayvon Martin. Walter Scott. Alton Sterling. Botham Jean. Philando Castile. And those are just a few of the names that made national headlines. There are countless other names that we haven’t heard about because their stories went unheard. And when I thought about all these people, known and unknown, who have died long before they had to, I realized that George Floyd’s death really isn’t surprising at all. It’s another tragic, yet brutally honest, reminder that there is so much more work to be done.
I used to be a “we need all of the facts” type of person. Whenever I would see a story of white on black police brutality, I would think to myself, “Well, we can’t rush to any conclusions until the whole story comes out.” I want to take the opportunity to apologize to any person who I directly or indirectly hurt with that kind of narrow-minded and inexcusable thinking. As I have grown up and matured, I have changed the way that I view these acts of police brutality and racism. I now see them for what they are, and I recognize that my previous way of thinking was a defense mechanism that I used to try and justify why people who look like me would take somebody else’s life simply because they have a different skin color. And so, I ask you to search your hearts for any way in which you might be on the side of the oppressors instead of the oppressed. And if you discover any ways in which you are supporting the oppressors, I ask that you would flee from these actions or thoughts or words. We need change right now.
Next, I want to address those who love to respond to those who say Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter. I saw a great analogy somewhere that said something along the lines of, “Nobody would run into a breast cancer rally and scream that all cancer matters.” I really don’t think there’s a better way to put it. It goes without saying that all lives matter, but I believe we are being ignorant when we try to act like all lives are being values equally. BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT. There’s a video going around by @carllentz that has been shared by a lot of people. And in that video, he says, “Since when does highlighting one issue disparage another? Are we not secure enough to be able to sit here and go issue by issue and just talk about one without disparaging another?”
Finally, I want to give my two cents on the violence that is going on in the cities across the United States. Before I really get into this, I want to say that I will never be able to understand or truly comprehend what it is like to live as a black person in America. And I think any non-black person has to fully grasp that fact whenever they want to talk about racial issues. I have privilege simply because I am white male. I do not think that that’s right or fair, but I do know and acknowledge that it is true. There are things that I can do without fear on a daily basis that my black brothers and sisters cannot. It tears me up that this sentence is true, but I recognize that it is true. I also recognize that it is a tremendous problem. So as much as I ache and am angry and am saddened and am frustrated by the deaths of innocent black men and women, I will never be able to comprehend how it feels to watch someone who looks like me targeted and die because of the color of their skin. So I don’t think that it’s any of my business to judge the way a group of people protests because I will never be able to fully understand the anger and pain that they feel.
It really boils down to this: we cannot control the actions, words and thoughts of others, but we can control our actions, words, and thoughts. Let’s focus less on criticizing the things that we see that we don’t like and instead focus on finding ways in which we can educate ourselves and actively fight against racism.