I’ve been hearing this sound for days. Maybe a week. It has become the background noise to my nights at home while I wash the dishes and do the laundry. Every now and then I go to my deck where I can look out and see the blinking lights circling on the tree line less than a mile from my home where thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the lack of indictment for the two white cops who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and beyond that. In my city, people are protesting the injustices of our contemporary America, our justice system and our relationships to each other as humans. And yet, here I am at home.
I am in the midst of history, of a new civil rights movement decades later on the same streets. I am proud to be in the hotbed of such protest and fervor, proud to see my peers raise their voices and their hands, but I don’t know how to be one of them. In the midst of so much action, I am left in confusion.
Let me be clear: I am not confused about my opinions on the matters at hand. The death of black men at the hands of police, and the deep racism behind such actions, and the subsequent freedom of whites who kill blacks, and the overly optimistic idea that we live in a post-racial and just society, has my heart in knots and my mind struggling to grapple with what it means to be white. To be young and white. To be young and white and live in the Bay Area and educated and liberal and here, now, not doing anything. I am privileged. Black lives matter. This I know.
What I don’t know is what to do. I am wondering what I can possibly add to the conversation without polluting it, as I probably am now, and without getting in the way of the progress that really needs to be made. With the privilege of being white comes the ability to steal the show, unintentionally or not. It’s happened already, with the arguably misguided #drivingwhilewhite movement and UC Berkeley students using the police brutality protests to protest the recent tuition hikes, and more. The message keeps getting diverted. I don’t want to do that.
There is a lot going through my mind but the bottom line is that this is the fight of the oppressed. Those are the voices that need to be heard. And in respect of that, all I can do right now is let those voices rise above mine, listen to what they are saying, think about my place in it and be a silent ally sending my goodwill from my home where I hear the helicopters and see the spotlight and watch the live feed of the protests and sigh deeply and read the news and wait until maybe it really is time for me to do something. Until then, here I am.