Most of my physical person has come from the ones who’ve come before me. I’ve got my father’s eyes and hands and my grandfather’s nose and forehead. I have my mother’s smile, my grandmother’s cheeks and my other grandmother’s height (or lack thereof).
In terms of my personality, I have my dad’s humor, my mom’s wit and both of their hearts. Blessedly, I come from a long line of loving, big-hearted people who raised me to live by “the golden rule,” but their compassion doesn’t negate all of the other rules I’ve inherited from my country.
Because I’m white, I’m privileged in thousands of spoken and unspoken ways. And yes, I feel ashamed of this. I feel ashamed that I live in a country that has systematically privileged my existence while simultaneously oppressing others of color and that I’m only now saying, “I WON’T STAND FOR THIS.”
Though I have as much control over this inheritance as my physical attributes, I still feel equally responsible for and repulsed by reaping the benefits of a rigged system.
Have you ever gone to a game where you thought the underdog stood a fighting chance, and you cheered and cheered for them to come out on top, only to have the person beside you say, “You know, there’s no point in rooting for them, right? They’re never gonna win.”
So you stop cheering for a moment and take a good, long look at the game.
What are the rules? Are both sides playing by them? Who are the refs? Are they biased? Are they calling it like they see it, or do they, too, already know the outcome?
And what about the fans? Do they believe anything is possible, or are they calculating how soon they should pack it in and beat all that postgame traffic?
“Who’s got spirit, yes, they do!” and who’s sitting silent, spiritless?
This is how I feel right now, like I’m up in the stands watching the biggest fight of the century unfold before me, and I don’t know how I got here, quietly sitting on my hands waiting for someone to tell me, “Pipe down. You got no skin in this game.”
The problem is, I do have skin in this game. We all do, and this is exactly the point.
What does it matter what color it is — I’m underneath it, praying for a good, clean country where everybody has to play by the same rules, where the refs don’t look the other way or call egregious fouls to sway the game in one side’s favor.
I want to live in a country where everyone believes that anything is possible no matter what color skin you’re in, where people stand up and cheer for the underdog and refuse to pack it in when others say, “There’s no point. They’re never gonna win.”
Can’t we see that there should never have been two sides, two teams, two opposing sets of players set up to win or lose? How does that make sense? Humanity was never meant to be at odds with each other. We were never meant to pick sides.
We were supposed to be rooting for each other, on the same team, standing up with and for one another this, whole, time.
Americans have inherited an antiquated, barbaric custom of identifying people by their color and then methodically profiling, stereotyping, discriminating and oppressing them because of it, and I’m sick of it. I’m sick of being silent and telling myself, “Who am I to speak up? And what can I do about it?”
I can say it’s not fair that a black man died asking for his breath because a white man was allowed to wear a uniform he didn’t deserve to wear.
I can say it’s not fair that three other white men stood by and watched him die.
I can say it’s not fair that it took three days for the murderer to be charged with third-degree murder, two degrees removed from his actual crime.
And I can say it’s not fair that had this brutal killing not been caught on video, the world would never know about George Floyd or the countless other African-Americans in this country whose wrongful deaths have never seen justice served against their white perpetrators.
THIS. MUST. STOP.
The time for real, true equality in this country has always been now and is long past due. How many videos of African Americans dying do we need to see before we all say, “I won’t stand for this anymore!”?
We need to fight against the pervasive structural inequalities that persist in our country: unequal access to education, healthcare, better paying jobs, fair wages, housing, and equal representation under the law.
What’s more, we need to admit the myriad of ways in which the game is rigged that have nothing to do with the system and everything to do with us.
We. Are. The. System. And if we continue to stay quiet while these reprehensible social and structural disparities exist, then we are no better than the power that seeks to divide us.
I see you. I stand with you. And I will use my voice, however loud it is, to say that WE WILL WIN. We will not be defeated by hatred and prejudice. We will not be defeated by ignorance and injustice. We will not be defeated by cowardice and incompetence.
We will not be defeated because love must win. In fact, it’s the only way we ever have. My family taught me that, and this is what I want to teach my children. I want them to inherit their mother’s heart, their father’s courage and a country that refuses to be quiet against the forces that seek to destroy both.
I want them to read this and speak up for those who have long been silenced, so when they look back at this time in their lives they will remember that they were on the right side of history — the victors.