I stood with people from all races chanting “Black Lives Matter,” and “No Justice, no Peace,” when a break in the chants paused and someone walked to the center of the group and shared what it’s like to be a black man in America. When he finished, fists were raised in the air and more chants echoed among the thousands gathered. African American men and women stepped forward to sing, read poems, and share their stories. And then, a white girl stepped forward and offered her support. There was more cheering and people nearby thanked her. African American men and women continued to speak on atrocities they’ve experienced and how it’s affected them. Then, the white girl came back to say something else. More sharing from the crowd and then a white man stepped forward to share. He was awkward but was thanked and more people shared. Then the white girl came back. And then the white guy came back. More sharing and then she came back! More sharing and then more white men and women spoke. And I have to be honest, after some African Americans were sharing, I prayed someone would hurry before another white person got up to speak.
I don’t know what it is about white people wanting to jump to the front of the Black Lives Matter conversation. Do we feel an entitlement as a result of our white privilege that everyone must know our opinions? I guess I’m answering that myself by writing about how annoying white people can be at protests. But if there was ever an important moment for us (white folks) to sit back and simply be supportive, the time is now.
Telling people to shut up might sound horrible because one chant heard at protests and seen on signs is “silence equals violence.” I’m not saying we should be silent. I’m just saying we don’t always have to take center stage. For too long, African American voices have been drowned out or disregarded by us white people. By being present during marches, protests, and vigils, we are showing our support. When that feeling of “I really have something to say,” pops up, maybe hold back.
There are a lot of ways we can support our black brothers and sisters. We’re supporting Black Lives Matter by being present and adding to the numbers and being vocal with the masses. By chanting along with everyone else, we’re committing to fight for equal rights and police reform. Support by using your vote to help push forward candidates that represent Black and Brown People’s causes. Hold elected leaders accountable. Shine a light on racial injustice and inequality so that it stays at the forefront of the conversation. Use social media to share your support and call out those who reak of ignorance and backward ideals. Support by asking your place of worship to make public statements and take action to support their neighbors. Regarding how we feel during protests and vigils; it isn’t our time to speak. It’s our time to listen.
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