I have gotten many questions and seen many Facebook posts stating your disgust at the protests and rioting that is happening in Minneapolis and many other cities following the savage murder of George Floyd. I got to spend some time listening to some Pastors in Milwaukee that I deeply respect talk about this and the issue of race in American through a Facebook Live event held by the Milwaukee Declaration. I was so proud to know some of these pastors and to call some of them my pastors. We need more men and women in the church standing up to fight in this war that we are facing. Their words inspired me to write down my own thoughts and feelings regarding the current state of race in America. To my white friends, I hope you are listening, and I hope that you choose to stop being silent.
Let me start out by saying, I am pissed. The anger that burns inside of me watching another one of my black brothers fall and join the LEGIONS of black men and women that have fallen victim to the most successful act of terror that I have ever seen. Because that is what it is, an act of terror, the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians.
A few of you have asked me to help you understand, understand the response of violence and understand what the media is putting out there because the violence is unacceptable. “Why do they riot? I will no longer support you if you choose to behave like this” These are the statements made to me and on social media over the last few days. I want to take a moment to try and give you a window into our world.
When your life is degraded down to a constant state of nothingness and you are basically told you are less than other humans on the planet because of the color of your skin, the anger that you feel that you can do nothing about can make you crazy. I can honestly tell you I identified with the feelings of those rioters and protestors. I wanted to be out there throwing bricks and screening at the top of my lungs so the World could see a small tangible example of how angry I am and what this World has done to my people of color.
What if it had been me? What if I had been hunted while running? What if I had been gunned down because of a case of “mistaken identity?” What if I was pinned to the ground with my throat closing off slowly begging for just a little more air dying slowly in the street?
White America has told us that we are no better than an animal that you can just put down whenever they “disobey” or give the “conception of disobedience.” No voices have even heard, no life has seen proper justice and there has been no significant change. The only thing that White America seems to take notice of is violence. I am not saying violence is the answer because turning to violence makes use no better than the bigots that walk our planet and insight violence on each of us.
But consider for a moment, a member of your family, let’s say your son think about raising him in a world where he has been pre-judged as a criminal or good for nothing piece of trash. Then at age 8-14 (depending on when it first happens), he gets pulled over by the cops for walking home through a middle-class neighborhood (a little shortcut he found to get home quicker). The police question him ask him about his home, his family, where he is going, tell him he looks like a suspect they have been looking for and gives a vague description that boils down to the color of his skin. You have raised him to stand up for himself and he protests their unlawful attempts to take him in for questioning or arrest him. His face is slammed into the pavement. He is handcuffed, a gun is pointed at his head by the officers that were sworn in to protect him. But more and more the world is showing him that they are protecting the world from him. All because he took a shortcut home, he had the audacity to walk through a middle-class neighborhood. Then, they just let him go, without an apology, without an explanation, without anything. But you and I both know that God’s protection had to be watching over him because it is a miracle that he got away with his life.
Then you must sit down with him and explain to him that people have made decisions about him because of the color of his skin. Made him a target. You must teach him how EXACTLY to act when he gets pulled over. Keep your hands visible. Never reach for your glove compartment. Always keep your license and registration out in your car. Always state all your movements before making them. NEVER TALK BACK. NEVER TRY TO DEFEND YOURSELF because IT WILL GET YOU KILLED. Also, as a parent, you must prepare for the possibility that your child won’t see their 18th birthday. If they do, it will be a miracle.
This is the reality of our world today.
What white friends need to hear is that it is time to stop being silent about racism. Being silent is making you a racist. Yes, that is harsh, but you are silently choosing to accept the reality for your friends, brothers and sisters of color. So, I ask you, what if it had been me? What if I had been hunted while running? What if I had been gunned down during a “case of mistaken identity”? What if I was pinned to the ground with my throat closing off slowly begging for just a little more air, dying slowly in the street?
That should be what you fight for. Fight for me. Fright for your friends and loved ones that the World has stopped listening to. Fight for us who have been silenced by beatings, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and real bullets
White people have power and a voice in this world, and we do not. That has been proven to us time and time again, with every miscarriage of justice, with every death and with every silenced protest. It is time for White America to step up and speak out for us because we cannot speak for ourselves anymore. We are not allowed to speak for ourselves anymore.
Take a moment to ask yourself, have I allowed myself to be blinded to the plight of my black brothers and sisters? Ask yourself if you would be able to accept this reality for your child or any family member. I want to leave you with words from the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr from his speech titled “The Other America” in 1968. “But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
Percy Ittickathra is a Christ follower that is active in the local church and the community with a desire to share her perspective and speak out against racial injustice. She is a Milwaukee transplant that has been working as a nurse for 6 years, specializing in critical care and nursing education.