Hi, I’m a white woman.
I grew up in a suburban, middle class, Christian, second generation college educated, two-parent family. I’m straight, cis-gendered, and able bodied.
Do you know what that means? I’m basically the epitome of privilege.
Intersectionality reigns, and I do have some things like being a covered Muslim, woman, and now working class. Overall, I have and will continue to benefit from privilege more than most.
Having privilege gives a higher moral obligation to not only resist participating in oppression, but also actively fight against it.
Last night, attending a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Detroit, I was asked to say a few words about why I was there. I declined the first time, but was asked twice more.
This is where I, a white ally, run into a difficult situation.
Do I take the mic and say my piece, perhaps encouraging others in my group of privilege to stand up and speak out against the atrocities plaguing our nation? Or do I stand back and let those whose lives are the ones at stake continue? How do I use my voice to magnify the voices pleading for justice without distorting it through my privilege?
I agreed to say a few words, but only if there was a lull in people. Unfortunately, there never was…because too many people have been adversely affected by the system.
Person after person stood up to speak on the insane, disproportionate incarceration of black men. A 15 year old girl screamed a question to the crowd, “why should I be grateful to live in a country where I literally am thankful to wake up alive…because that doesn’t happen for us.” My heart was breaking over, and over, and over again.
Usually, I can get outraged at these senseless killings. Usually, I can assume my role as a social media warrior and post rants for hours about the injustice. This week had me feeling the opposite – completely powerless, voiceless, and deflated.
Last night, I saw hundreds upon hundreds of people – Black, White, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Pagan, male and female, and everywhere in between. Hundreds of people peacefully outraged. Hundreds of people airing their grievances on an open forum, and collecting handwritten suggestions for solutions from the entire crowd. Last night, I saw a people empowered.
There were Black fraternity brothers handing out water to all people, regardless of race or religion.
There were police officers there interacting with us and asking gentle questions about us – because four of us prayed on Maghrib right there on the street.
There was no violence. No calls for violence. There was a resounding cry for justice.
Then, everyone lined up to march. The hundreds of people isolated in a field lined up. The line stretched nearly half a mile, and walked straight through downtown Detroit. The march went past the densely populated night life in Greektown. Passerbys were showing their support, joining in the chants and even walking with us.
Maybe we didn’t accomplish anything concrete that night, but we made the point. The point that silence is unacceptable and that people of all backgrounds can come together against oppression. We, especially those of privilege, must lend our voices to those whose voices are ignored.
We must stand together, resolute, until we truly are one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.