Removing the Mask of Naivety

Like many Americans, I am heartbroken over what has transpired in regards to the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and now the ambush of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. The truth is I am heartbroken whenever I read about the senseless murders of anyone.

But the latest tragedies have caused me to take a good hard look in the mirror and frankly, I do not like what I have seen in my reflection.

Looking at the face staring back at me, I have had to come to terms with a revelation about myself.

A mask I have been living behind for years, and while I wasn’t aware of it until this week, it is one I am committed to removing. I am speaking about living behind a mask of naivety.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I am a child of integration. Growing up in the 70’s in Virginia, I was bused 30 minutes from my home to another school district as governments tried to bring unity to the races. It was a good experience for me and I believe molded me into a woman who accepts people, all people regardless of race, gender, size or status, as people. People matter to me, and I have tried to live my life showing that I accept and respect everyone. I have sought to raise my children with the same respect for humanity.

But in the past few days, I see that I have been stuck in a childhood memory, and while I believed integration worked in society, I have come to realize it worked for me personally.

Today, I understand I am a naive, white woman who has been residing in the shadows of a childhood belief that man found a way to live together and accept one another as equals.

Loosening My Mask

I watched Jesse Williams speech on the BET Awards and found myself wanting to understand his anger and passion on Black Lives Matter. I hadn’t heard of Black Lives Matter until his speech, although it has been active since 2013 as a result of the murder of Trayvon Martin. I admit, it took me a couple of days to process the message Jesse was conveying, but even then I didn’t fully understand the depth of the words he spoke. It wasn’t until a few days later that reality hit me in the face when I read and saw the videos of the senseless murders of two black men by local police. My mind went back to Jesse’s speech and I finally understood his statement.

#BlackLivesMatter

We need to understand that Black Lives Matter isn’t an action to rule supreme, and it’s not stating other lives don’t matter. It’s a movement to challenge those of us who naively walk through this life believing black men and women are not treated differently because the color of their skin.

It’s a wake-up call to those of us who live a privileged life and are unafraid to walk down the street at night heading home after being at a friends house or a football game.

It’s a wake-up call to those of us who live a privileged life and are unafraid to walk down the street at night heading home after being at a friends house or a football game. It’s a call to action to stand before governments calling for accountability and to no longer condone, support or turn away the injustice being done to people because of the color of their skin.

We also need to understand when someone says “Black Lives Matter” there is no need to counteract with ‘all lives matter’. By doing this, we leave our masks securely in place refusing to understand what is really being said. Do not take the media’s word for what #BlackLivesMatter means. Do the research yourself and don’t allow others to tell you how to interpret someone’s message.

Today, I am not as naive as I was yesterday. Sadly it has taken another string of events to cause me to see I have not paid close enough attention to what is really going on in our country. It is said seeing is believing and once you have seen the truth you can no longer plead ignorance.

Today, I worry for my black friends around the country. Friends who have to live life at a heightened awareness because they are subject to a greater suspicion than I have ever had to face.

Today, I am afraid for the police officers, striving to do good for their communities, who will be forgotten because some officers who choose to target and murder innocent men and women will leave a sour taste in our mouths, causing the stereotypical hysteria that all officers are evil.

Today, I fear for my black grandson and how he has to live his life with caution of where he goes, what he does and even what he says. And while in our family we say he has the same rights and privileges of others, the reality is outside his front door he does not even have the same freedoms of his white siblings.

Today I Remove My Mask

Today is the day I remove the mask I have been living behind and do my part to help eradicate racism. To say the last few weeks have been emotional would be a great understatement. There have been tears, prayers and total confusion on how to process what has transpired. But in my search for answers, I have learned the first step is to start with myself.

For those of us who have been ignorant and naive, it is time we acknowledge that racism is still alive and active in America.

There isn’t an option to say this isn’t happening any longer. Today we do not need to rely solely on the daily newspaper or evening news to tell us what is going on in the world . With the various social media options, not only are we told how prevalent racism is, but we bear witness to it. Once we are a witness to something, we are then accountable to act.

I realize there is so much work needing to be done to break down the walls of racism. There are some who will say that they are not racist and the problem started with ancestors who came before us. But I believe our generation has been just as guilty, perhaps even more guilty. By our generation remaining silent we have supported those walls, we have stood in front of those walls with deaf ears and blind eyes, ignoring what is going on right in front of us. It is time to knock down the walls, and no longer turn away remaining silent when we see others murdered or treated wrongly.

It is up to each of us to do our part to understand and support #BlackLivesMatter. If we can’t come together with this, how will we ever be able to get to the point that all lives matter?

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