Scattered thoughts on Alton Sterling, Philando Castile & the privilege of staying silent.

I've been processing a lot of thoughts and emotions the last couple of days, and for someone who swears writing is her outlet and passion, I sure suck at actually using it. I'm physically ill from what's happened with Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Minnesota and - just now - the fallen police officers in Dallas that I can't ignore the need to work these thoughts through. 

Since Ferguson, Twitter has opened my heart, eyes and mind to the brutal reality that black Americans have to live with each day. Since Ferguson, I've watched hundreds of tragic events unfold in real time - and often differently from the neatly packaged news clips we see on news media hours, sometimes days later.

It's the same ugly cycle - some kind of altercation goes down between a police officer and a black person; that person is shot or otherwise murdered; minutes and hours go by as that person's whole life, family and identity are scrutinized to paint them as a villain in the media; police officer is eventually let off the hook. 

I am often at a loss for words; what is the right thing to say when you empathize but know you will never be able to fully relate? That fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed me from saying anything for a long time. So I just share.

I retweet the shit out of the raw emotions, helplessness and interactions of activists who are struggling to make sense of the latest situation. I can't possibly understand what it feels like to be a black man or woman walking down the street, getting pulled over or otherwise minding my own damn business and fear for my life. I don't know that strength a black parent has to find to tell their black child that they aren't going to die. But I hear you and I'm sharing your authenticity. If I can help spread the message out that much more, I'll retweet and share til the end of time.

Photo by Sarah Lovrien. Glossrags tee, One Teaspoon jeans & Zara shoes

Photo by Sarah Lovrien. Glossrags tee, One Teaspoon jeans & Zara shoes

And yet, I know sharing is not enough. I've stayed quiet for too long, and let all that confusion and helplessness manifest into anger. Sometimes I just have to log off completely, because the wave of privileged posturing on Facebook is soul-crushing and too heavy to bear. Sometimes I project onto fellow bloggers and social media people (most of whom are liberal and white.) I know, I'm not doing it either but I'm owning my petty and my piece of the pie. If you're spending time creating a presence on social media and/or via a blog, I'm assuming you're trying to build a sphere of influence. Why not use that influence you've built to share about these tragedies?

It's frustrating how easy it is for bloggers to go on and on about nonsense like outfits and fucking Pinterest quotes but when it comes down to hard, uncomfortable civic conversations, many of them just go silent. I get it - it's hard to find the words to say and I struggle with that too, but saying nothing is almost the same as condoning the behavior that leads a man to shoot another.

Say something!

It's really easy to generalize on both sides of these racially-provoked police shootings. I also project on the coded racism and privilege behind Facebook users who don't say anything except "Thank you to cops for doing their service." That shit feels like a slap in the face. I will never understand the fear and insecurity that would drive someone to murder someone else purely by the color of their skin, let alone condone it. Regardless, I know that there are good cops out there, and I hope some of them find the courage to stand up and say that racism and profiling are wrong. 

There is a deep heartache and sorrow for the families of all victims, and for anyone who's shed tears for the fallen. We've seen far too many tearful interviews of people who've lost a father, son, lover, community steward. I've seen so much disillusionment and fear in my timelines from black people who wonder if they might be next. I have friends who have had to leave work because it's too much to deal with the passive ignorance or pressing questions from their coworkers while processing their own feelings. More than anything, each time a shooting happens, helplessness washes over like a paralyzing sea.

It's frightening but necessary to recognize we are at a turning point in our society. Thanks to social media, the cover-ups that racism and privilege have allowed in the past are no longer the overarching narrative. They don't get to tell our stories anymore. 

I don't have the answers, Sway, and I don't know what will happen. All I know is that I'm here to share, to have the uncomfortable conversations, to read and absorb all that I can and to exemplify compassion, and to show that living with ignorance, hate and fear is no way to progress at all.

Black Lives Matter.