Last night after my kids were asleep, I turned my attention to social media to read reactions to the Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, MO. I read thousands of posts, but there were two things in particular that really struck me.
The first was something I saw across several of the Facebook threads I participated in. The commenters were basically trying to combat all the anti-police rhetoric they were seeing, because many of them had family members who worked in law enforcement. I related to this because, as the daughter of a retired police officer, I also hate seeing anti-police sentiment. I know how scary it is when your loved one walks out the door every day to do a dangerous job very few people want to do. I remember what his face looked like and what his voice sounded like when he’d come home after the really bad days. I’ve heard my dad called all sorts of names. As a child, I didn’t understand why people hated him just because of his job. But I was a white kid in the suburbs, and I had no idea.
With that said, though, it’s the second thing that affected me the most, and brought me to tears. On twitter, my friends of color expressed their dismay over the grand jury’s decision. They wrote about how the system is failing them and their families. They wrote about how they feel like they don’t matter because of the color of their skin. They wrote about how scared they are for their children, their sons.
My friend Karen implored her white friends to write something, anything. To not let this moment go by in silence. I’ve often felt like, as a white person, what can I write that people will care about? In the past I’ve stuck to sharing links to well-written articles, to having in-person discussions, and donating money to organizations dedicated to change. And, I’ve feared that by expressing my devastation over how things are going in Ferguson I’d somehow be disrespecting my father, which is the last thing I’d ever want to do.
But…I can’t hide behind my privilege. My children will never be looked at suspiciously, because they are white. Annabel will never be followed around a store to make sure she doesn’t shoplift. James will always be given the benefit of the doubt. That’s not fair. This has to change, and the people with the privilege have to help change it.
Things were supposed to be different by now, but nothing changes in silence.