I’ve been engaging in conversations with the people who live near me.
Some are open-minded and willing to stick their necks out to say and do the kind, honest thing. Some are still entrenched in their self-protective beliefs. They speak ugly words and hateful values and seem to genuinely not know why the rest of us are upset.
So here is a letter to the people who don’t understand that systemic racism exists and police officers murdering a cuffed person is fundamentally wrong.
Dear, worried (mostly white) people,
Black people are looking for equality, not revenge—take a breath.
Take a breath, if no one has you in a chokehold. Take a breath if there is no knee on your neck. Take in that lung-expanding deep breath if there aren’t 10 people on their way up by way of your bent-over back.
Take a breath and let it out slowly. Repeat after me:
Black people are grabbing our attention to try and move toward equality.
Let’s try that word again, Equality.
It’s that thing you say you believe in. Understanding, of course, that it has nothing to do with a sameness of looks or cultures. No, just equal treatment under the same laws—that’s equality.
Feels better, doesn’t it, at least a little? Equality on the face of it wouldn’t be that scary. But I can still hear the hesitation, so take a breath and let’s move on.
This is the tricky part:
Understand that there is no major movement for revenge by people of color in this country. Breathe in through your narrow nostrils and let it out slowly, but fully, and with a gentle inhale for speaking, repeat it again after me:
There is no major movement for revenge by people of color in this country.
Breathe, because you can. Now take another breath in deeply and consider the children in public schools, thousands of children, for years, having to say out loud, every school day, that this entire country has the purpose of being one nation with liberty and justice for all. Over and over, “with liberty and justice for all.”
Roll that around some more on your tongue cooled by those relaxing breaths, “liberty and justice for all.”
That sounds like a reasonably safe country. I want to live there—liberty and justice for all. I swore to it. I want it to be a reality.
So, when you nervous people jump to put your fears at the center of focus—getting loud about power, color, white people mattering, or the authoritarian police force mattering, and whenever you hear the statement “Black Lives Matter”—breathe. Breathe because you can.
The native Americans aren’t going to move into our homes just because we acknowledge that their homes and lives were stolen by people like us many years ago, and those living now deserve equality.
The Latino people who prop up so much of the economy with silent strength aren’t going to take back all the food we eat off their labors. They won’t give us back our sh*t and garbage they cleaned up because we all agree to pay fair wages.
Stop fretting about whether a person with brown skin has been here longer than a white immigrant.
All the people of so many ethnicities who get lumped into being called Asian, aren’t going to send you to a locked camp. They won’t be destroying the railroads or taking back an island state just because we acknowledge the wrongs and injustices they have suffered.
It’s not about any revenge, understandable as revenge maybe. It’s about equality.
It’s that simple, take a breath.
Watch an anti-racism hour with Jane Elliott talking with Waylon Lewis of Elephant, here.