The other day when news of Alton Sterling’s death at the hands of a cop in Louisiana started to cross my path I took a look at the headline and quickly scrolled past the articles as fast as they appeared. I wasn’t in the mood to put myself in the position of watching a video I knew would only bring me down so I chose to move ahead with blinders. I did the same exact thing upon hearing of Philando Castile’s death at the hands of police in Minnesota.
But then I watched this video by one of the most inspiring and my favorite content creator on Youtube. Most of the video centers around the difficulty he had trying to edit a video that was meant to be fun when he had the news of these atrocities on the back of his mind. He also mentions how he normally tries to avoid bringing politics and divisive topics into his channel (of which he has roughly 3.6 million subs) but ends by saying “to not at least express my feelings about them (these situations) to you, would not only be irresponsible but it would feel like I’m part of the problem in keeping my mouth shut”. And that’s all I needed to hear for me to remove my blinders and finally take in the videos of these men being killed.
The first video I watched was the Facebook Live video of Philando Castile taking his last breath. It was absolutely soul crushing to witness. A feeling of pure sadness and disbelief swept over my body and remained with me the rest of the afternoon. I can’t imagine sitting in the car with my wife and a young daughter, being alive one minute dealing with the nuisance of a broken tail light and dead the next all because a cop couldn’t keep his head together. A life stolen and two ruined forever.
After that it was hard for me to move on to the Alton Sterling video, but I convinced myself that I had to watch. This is the reality of the world, the pain people feel, the lives being lost in the country I live in and it’s 100% irresponsible for me to overlook these situations just because it discomforts me. So I watched and I saw man lying on his back murdered by a cop.
And I can’t take it anymore. We hear #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, but the truth is that no lives matter when you’re living in a world that conducts itself the way ours does. If you don’t value all lives, you value none. How can you feel happiness knowing that people have to go through their day to day lives fearing this might happen to them or someone they love? You can’t unless you lie to yourself or do what I did previously and just try not to pay too much attention. I don’t want to live in a world like this, where hate wins and hate gets justified because it’s too difficult to challenge yourself to come out of your comfort zone and do right by all people.
So I asked myself what I can do to help the situation. One thing I can do, and which I began to do earlier today, is check myself and ask if I directly or indirectly contribute to a global mindset that allows this type of treatment to go on. And you know what? I am part of the problem. You know what white privilege is? It’s not something the liberal media made up so they could point their fingers in superiority. White privilege is when you see a headline that a black man was killed by cops and you can’t be bothered to watch the video because you don’t want the inconvenience of feeling things that make you uncomfortable. You ignore it because you don’t want to take the time to question the role you play in all of this. The people really dealing with these situations don’t get to say “Nah, you know today I’m taking a timeout from reality. I don’t want to feel sad or mad so catch me tomorrow”. Why should I get to avoid these situations just because I’m not directly affected? Why should you?
Do I think I’m a bad person for not wanting to see these videos? No. And I don’t think you are either if you felt the same. But to constantly brush these situations aside just because I can isn’t fair to the people who can’t. At the very least I should be able to attempt to understand what they feel. I may never empathize, but if we don’t allow ourselves to see the sadness that’s out there in this world we’ll never feel the pressure to change. Open your eyes and speak up when you see something wrong. It’s the least can you do.
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
I was afraid to read this. I grew up in the same town as you, a year older than your sister. I was afraid to read this because I know how people from our small corner of Pennsylvania think…I deleted a lot of “friends” from high school off Facebook during President Obama’s election and the Trayvon Martin case. I’m sure you can guess why. But I want to thank you for this. Thank you for willing to risk to feel the discomfort that comes with being raw and honest with yourself and addressing your privilege. Thank you for being open minded to understand what other who do not share your skin color may feel at what’s happening in our country. Thank you for giving me hope that people care enough to be the change our country needs.
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