Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered as I sat, safe and secure, at my cottage in Michigan. “My cottage in Michigan” has to be the most privileged fucking phrase I utter on a regular basis. This cottage that has been in my family for nearly 100 years… 100 years of white privilege while black men and women are murdered.
I read articles and think-pieces in response to the back-to-back deaths of Alton and Philando as I got a pedicure. Safe and secure in one of the whitest towns in Michigan, I got a pedicure, while black men were dying. I got a pedicure as their families mourned the lives of these men reduced to hashtags.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve wanted to shed my white skin in shame. Utter shame.
The stories I read from my newsfeed were interspersed with others: those of new relationships, of vacations, of dogs’ birthdays. How can someone post about a dog’s birthday when black men and women are dying?
I used to tell myself that I was working on the side of justice. That by working for and with an underprivileged population, I was doing enough. This is how I justified my silence. But I can’t be silent any more. Not after 559 men and women have died at the hands of the police in 2016 alone. Not after my black brothers and sisters in humanity suffer trauma after trauma after trauma. I told myself I was working for justice, for public health. I now realize this is the greatest injustice, the greatest public health crisis, of my time. This structural, cultural, institutionalized racism. This structural, cultural, institutionalized violence. This. This is all there is.
I cannot shed my white skin. And I shouldn’t. To do so would be an insult to all who have died because of the color of theirs. I cannot be silent any longer. I need to use my white privilege, my white skin, my white body, my white voice. I need to use them to call for justice, to call for police reform, to call for accountability, to scream at the top of my lungs that black lives matter. That all lives won’t matter, and can’t matter, until black lives do.
I implore any white folks reading this to do the same.
–Mary and I had class together in 2011 at Saint Louis University; she is currently in the class, Writing Rejuvenation.