Last week, I was watching the news and saw a viral video of a 15-year-old African-American high school student being detained by police in Broward County, Florida. The officers on the scene took the teen and pepper-sprayed, punched and slammed his face into the ground repeatedly.
At this point, none of us shy away from these types of occurrences. It seems like every other day we see another Trayvon, another Sandra Bland, another Philando.
But this one resonated differently with me.
Why did it make me feel so uneasy when police brutality happens every day? Why was my stomach turning as I scrolled through my social media apps?
It’s because people aren’t pissed off anymore.
There aren’t the same calls to action, the outrage and pleas for justice like there used to be. We as a society have become complacent with injustice. The U.S. is content with marginalization. More specifically, white America is content with marginalization.
So if you saw that video of the 15-year-old teen being brutally beat down and slammed to the ground by Broward County police officers, and weren’t pissed off, your privilege is showing.
I can openly admit I myself am a carrier of privilege.
“But wait, just because I’m white does not mean I should be responsible for what my ancestors did.”
No one is responsible for their ancestors’ actions, but we are hardly better than our ancestors if we continue to perpetuate a culture that enables racial oppression. Privilege is something that is not going away so long as we continue to uphold the values that are representative of the systemic oppression that continues to take place in our society.
I know that as a straight, white man, my thoughts and feelings will always be validated and heard. If I were on the news for committing a crime, I would be portrayed as the troubled kid who needed help. I can walk through a Walmart and not be followed by an employee due to suspicions of shoplifting. If I ever get pulled over by the police, the odds of facing intimidation or my car being wrongfully searched are slim to none.
Marginalized groups are being silenced, and concerns being raised by communities of color are being suppressed and deemed as overreactions. The foundations of my privilege start with having people who look like me, creating laws that benefit people who look like me.
So rather than use your privilege to oppress, use your privilege to be an ally and magnify the voices that deserve to be heard. Rally alongside them and be the one who ensures the police don’t lay a hand on them. Validate their thoughts and feelings. By having privilege, we are and always will be on the outside looking in, so it is crucial to have empathy for their experiences. Make an effort to educate yourself and embrace the beauty of advocacy and activism. Be on the right side of history.
Take time to take part in activist rallies, political advocacy events and promote policies that will create equity in society. Advocate for laws that would ensure women have access to safe and affordable healthcare. Plead to your senators for more laws that protect the LGBTQ+ community, laws that would protect undocumented immigrants and bills that would ensure African-Americans don’t die at the hands of the police. It’s not a black issue. It’s not a LGBTQ+ issue. It’s not a Latinx issue. It’s a human issue.
Being an ally means knowing where your lane is at and providing unconditional support to the movement without overstepping your boundaries. You have to accept the fact that you will always be on the outside looking in.
If you want to be an ally, hear the voices of the oppressed and make them louder.
Oppressed groups are being so loud right now because they have to magnify their voice for it to be heard. So be an ally and listen up.