I understand that I will never understand. That I will never feel the constant fear of being killed by a police officer for doing nothing. That I will never be held back by and harmed by the blatant systemic racism in this country. That I will never be denied services or employment because of my skin color. That I will never face struggles and obstacles in life because of my skin color.
I understand that I will never understand, but I stand.
As a white male in a country built on white supremacy, I will always have a privilege and will never deal with the constant struggles and hardships faced by African Americans in this country. Only recently have I begun to truly examine the implications of my skin color and how it impacts how I am treated differently compared to African Americans by the institutions and systems in our country.
Although, I have not always shared this belief.
I used to consider myself aware of the injustices of racism in this country, progressive on race issues, and someone who would never have any racial bias. But I had yet to accept my white privilege and stayed silent on issues affecting the African American community in this country. I didn’t want to lose “followers” or upset those who disagreed with me. I didn’t want to admit that because of my skin color, I was an agent of systemic racism and white supremacy in this country. I wanted to believe that everyone was equal in this country and nobody is treated differently because of their skin color.
I Chose to Stay Silent
I chose to stay silent and believe what I wanted to believe, instead of speaking up and taking action. I didn’t want to believe that African Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. I didn’t want to believe that African Americans and whites use drugs at similar rates, but African Americans are imprisoned for drug charges at a rate almost six times that of whites. I didn’t want to believe it because I didn’t want to feel ashamed. And so what, I am just one person, so my silence doesn’t hurt anyone.
My sister invited me to attend the Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Atlanta the other day with her. We made our signs, with mine reading “1 Country, 2 Systems, #sayhisname,” and my sister’s “His name was George Floyd, and he couldn’t breathe,” and then huddled into the masses of people marching down from Centennial Olympic Park to the Georgia capital.
I was tentative at first to get involved, but as I opened my eyes more, I saw how powerful of a scene it was: people of all races, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds joined together to fight for justice for the unjust murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many other victims of systemic racism and police brutality in America.
My Fist Needs To Stay Raised Forever
We marched along the street shouting “No Justice, No Peace” and held our signs in the air while cars honked to show their support. We made our way to the state capital building, and we all kneeled in front of the Gold Dome, while prominent African American leaders spoke on the footsteps. After they finished their speeches, we took a moment of silence in remembrance of George Floyd and raised our fists in the air.
As I held my fist in the air, pumping it back and forth, I gazed over the thousands of other protestors kneeling and holding their fists up as well. The solidarity was overwhelming, and it made me realize that I had joined a movement bigger than myself. And that I had to keep my fist raised, forever.
I started to understand that my silence and inaction as a white American was causing harm to the African American community. It was also contributing to the silence of other white Americans. My silence translated to acceptance of the current system in America oppressing minorities and causing daily injustices. Silence is louder than words, and as soon as I realized this, I knew I needed to change my perspective of being white in America.
I Am An Agent of Systemic Racism
Because of my race, I am an agent of systemic racism. Even though I may face struggles in life, it will never be because of my skin color, and it does not mean that white privilege is not real. This does not mean that I have to be ashamed of being white. Instead, it means that I must identify my privilege and use it to help others. I must use my privilege to advocate for change in our country and the racist systems and foundations that comprise it, as well as raise awareness to the injustices plaguing this country.
I must use my privilege to encourage my white peers to speak up and show their support for the African American community. I must use my privilege to continue to protest and to vote for people of color and those who will fight for human rights into office.
I will never stay silent anymore on the injustices facing African Americans in this country. It is my duty as a white American to use my privilege to help others who lack my privilege, and that is what I intend to do.
I understand that I will never understand, but I stand.
I have gathered a helpful list of resources that opened my eyes and allowed me to learn more about how to be actively anti-racist, so I wanted to share some below:
- How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
- Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege by Robert Jenson
- Films and TV Series:
- 13th (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
- When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) — Netflix
- White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack by Peggy McIntosh
- 5 Tips For Being An Ally by Chesca Leigh
- “How Studying Privilege Systems Can Strengthen Compassion”: Peggy McIntosh at TEDxTimberlaneSchools
For an even more in-depth guide, visit: bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein in May 2020 and 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.
Above photo courtesy of Emory Paul
Amazing young man who gives hope for the future.
Wow, I was surprised to see the young man is only 17! Reading it DOES give me more hope & awareness& I appreciated all the resources at the end of his article. Thank you Emory!✌🏽💜
Thank you Emory for shining a light on this& for a thoughtful article. I appreciate all the additional resources at the end. Keep up the good work!✌🏽💜
Mr. Paul, did you originate the aphorism “I understand that I will never understand, but I stand?” If so, are you authorizing any of the merchandise on which it appears? I would rather not give my money to someone who had appropriated it without your permission.