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On Being White and Considering the Slaughter of Black Men

Emmy HoweBy SEED Co-director Emmy Howe.

A public note to myself on being White and considering the slaughter of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Jr., and Eric Garner.

Disturbing ... incredibly disturbing ... crazy making. I am not surprised by this finding, though I prayed for something different. It actually leaves me speechless — but perhaps I can't have the comfort of speechlessness right now. It is a David Christiansen moment — referring to the White man in the film The Color of Fear, who could not see his own racism. I realize again that we are living in a world so incredibly unsafe for people we love and will be leaving a world that is so unsafe for our children. This and the American war machine are what wake me up at night. The level to which White Americans have been lulled into seeing anyone who is not White as therefore expendable is horrifying.

The other day, I read the following quote, by a White author who is my demographic peer: “There is no good reason. Don't waste your life waiting for good reasons....You'll wait and wait.” It struck me as so White -- yes, for some Whites there may never be any good reason to do or be anything but what they are and go with the flow because the flow will keep them safe and build their wealth. That is not true for others — the system is so incredibly broken for some and so unbelievably supportive of others regardless of their actions. It is sick.

"To Whites, it is never about race. To blacks, it is always about race."

I'll say that these words of playwright August Wilson are what is true. It is true that White people can live free of racial interactions that impact their lives in any meaningful way.

It is impossible for me to imagine the level of fear that must be experienced by people of color, especially Black people, when the people who are supposed to keep the peace and enforce the law are killing them. They are walking targets. The only experience I have that comes close at all is that of being a woman or a dyke and being a target for sexual violence and hate — but it is not the same. It is not the same as being a judicially sanctioned target. The age range of the male victims — 12-year-old Tamir Rice and 43-year-old Eric Garner — is particularly poignant. How did we get here? How can we make cultural change and systemic change?

I feel impotent, ineffective, angry. I wonder, why isn't everyone screaming?! Actually it's time to be out in the streets for me — wherever that street is —

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Sunday, 11 June 2023
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