taking the words of Jesus seriously

“I’m so angry!”

“Tears, so many tears!”

“I feel so helpless!”

“I just don’t know what to do!”

“I’m so sorry!”

The above declarations have been spoken to me by several of my non-Black colleagues, associates, and friends in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. More often than not, these statements segue and contort into an exchange where I, as a Black woman, am expected to inject some reassurance that their inaction is permissible and the world isn’t quite as terrible as it seems. Frankly, it is a gratuitous role that has been thrust upon me and one that I no longer wish to play. 

When processing the murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, I vehemently reject the self-induced paralysis of non-Black people who remain on the sidelines of the fight to value Black lives. This work is far too costly for me to pacify inaction as anything other than the maintenance of deathly white supremacy. 

I take no responsibility for bearing the burden of making you feel less guilty about your inertia. 

It’s past time for a moment of candor. Hashtag activism is not an act of solidarity—it is a cheap act of self-promotion. 

Are you really telling me you don’t know how to respond to these senseless murders?

How would you respond if your unarmed son was murdered in broad daylight by pursuants with no true legal authority?

How would you respond if your daughter, unarmed, was shot eight times in the middle of the night in her own home?

How would you respond knowing that every mother/father/grandparent/aunt/uncle/sister/cousin/spouse hugs their Black loved one a little tighter and a little longer, knowing they are born a threat, consistently hunted and mercilessly killed?

READ: Why Racial Reconciliation Isn’t the Answer to Racial Violence

Do you see what just happened? Humanizing and for many of you, angelicizing, Ahmaud and Breonna made their lives matter to you in a different way. The reality is, many people cannot envision this happening to their child because it wouldn’t. I am less concerned with personalizing this theoretical tragedy and thrusting it upon your life to make it seem real and prove a point than I am disgusted that an analogy is necessary in the first place. 

It’s past time to get to work.

Here are 5 practical ways I am asking non-Black people to act:

  1. Get your people and do your own work.

Black people are exhausted, terrified, disgusted and traumatized. We have no remaining energy to educate you on why these murders were both socially predictable and humanely unnecessary. To expect that we take on the additional work of educating you about the gravity of systemic racism while we process our own trauma is not an act of solidarity, it is an act of selfishness. If you, your social circle and the people you love do not understand the historic and present day impact of the murders of unarmed Black people by police—and increasingly by self-authorizing non-Black citizens—then gather your people and engage the work of learning about this political weaponization of racial terrorism. We have no remaining enthusiasm to recommend more books, podcasts, or sermons to try and academically and theologically convince you that Black lives matter. We all have work to do and our work is different. Get your people and do your own work. 

  1. Take your righteous anger to the polls. 

Relationships and proximity change hearts, which is why many of us prefer to keep a homogenous circle. Vote not for yourself, but for those on the margins. Vote in the interests of your Black friend. Your native friend. Your Asian friend. Your Latino friend. Your poor friend. Your disabled friend. Your unemployed friend. Your LGBTQ+ friend. Your immigrant friend. Your incarcerated friend. If we don’t have relationships with these groups of people, we are part of the problem. Lean into righteous anger and holy dissatisfaction. Don’t ignore your anger, own it, give it purpose, and use it politically.

  1. Advocate for state hate crime laws and mandated data collection on hate crimes. 

In 2020, every state in the United States of America ought to have a hate crime law with required data collection. Far too many, do not. Leverage your privilege and work to change this.

  1. Listen well. 

Listen to the pain, anxiety, exhaustion, anger, fear, disgust and trauma of Black people. Sit with us in our pain and do not try to escape the discomfort under the guise of trying to fix the problem. Choose not to check out because we don’t have the luxury to check out of these lived realities.

  1. Make peace with the fact that true allyship will cost you.

The work of addressing the senseless murders of unarmed Black people leaves no room for tepidness. You will lose friends. You will offend people. You will feel isolated and lonely. You will be frustrated. You will be disappointed. You will miss the simplicity that came with ignorance. You will be labeled. You will be angry. There is no workaround. True allyship requires that you fractionally enter into the pain we feel every day. 

Are we really in this together?

About The Author

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Dr. Veronica Gilliard is a health disparities researcher in Atlanta, Georgia. She can be reached via email at contact@veronicagilliard.com or through her website at www.veronicagilliard.com.

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