Ok. So many thoughts and too many feelings.
This week, many of CMU’s offices and organizations collaborated to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memory in a week long series of events and performances.
Because of the what’s been seen in the news for the past two-three years, I felt compelled to be a part of as much of this week as possible. And even though I’ve considered myself a social justice advocate in the past, this week took my awareness to an entirely new level. With each event I attended, my emotions became more rattled; my beliefs, shook; my faith in humanity; questioned. And the moments of the week that stood out the most weren’t the speakers. It wasn’t the statistics that got me, I’d heard those before.
It was the voice of the movement. It was the reasons “why?” It was the art of the revolution that grabbed ahold of me and drowned me, making me think even further.
It was Tyler Bradley’s Humanity, a stage-dance production that addresses social issues beyond race, but depression, abuse, and more. These topics are translated through dance, set to the sounds of Michael Jackson and more. The entire show is brutally honest, and provokes emotion from the audience. Bradley fills it with so much of herself and her own experiences with humanity, it almost feels like a conversation one-on-one.
It was Macklemore releasing “White Privilege II” and reading along to the lyrics for the first time by myself, for the second time with my entire fraternity, and for a third time with my residence hall staff. This song tells the story of white people exploiting black culture for benefit and then taking credit for what black culture gave them. In reality, the song makes me so mad. Like, really? White people needed to hear about why black lives matter from a white american male to really understand it? It’s not like countless black artists have been chanting for change this whole time.
It was the march for Martin Luther King Jr. The masses coming together to continue in a march towards change and institutionalized equality. The signs that read quotes of a better life in a better future, where dreams and reality are indecipherable.
It was the dance, the music, and the demonstration. If you’re not a part of it, you’ll never know. And I will never truly know, myself. But being immersed in the energy these events bring will truly transform you.
And it should hurt. Privilege sucks. It really does, once you know about it.
It’s really easy to live each day without having to think about my skin color, without having to think about my speech. While some living and breathing american citizens are being denied job-after-job because “their personality just doesn’t fit,” me and my white skinned male-self only has to worry about not getting caught slacking at work.
When I turn on the news, I don’t see people of my race being held at gunpoint for petty theft. I don’t see people of my race assembling to chant for governmental revision; but instead, I’m supposed to trust the white people who enforce the laws that limit these groups in the first place.
And I recognize that I will never be an absolute ally for Black Lives, because I cannot. I do not know your struggle, I will never understand it. But I can see it. And will raise my voice.
White people, I challenge you. Stop being so sensitive. I’m not even asking you to be nice to black people, I’m asking you to be aware of the statutes this government has in place to limit anyone who is not white. I’m asking you to give up the “But I worked my ass off to get here, everyone is afforded the same opportunity” because you know as well as I do that opportunity is dispersed so blatantly unequal that this saying really needs to go.
Stop ignoring black culture, and learn about it.
Stop treating yourself to your own privilege
I left the week feeling a smidge bitter. How is it that our society has continued to fight for equity instead of resolving the issues in place that contribute to it? How is it that our generation is straddled with the same struggles our ancestors faced? How is it that white people have continued to disenfranchise and marginalize communities that are different than themselves? How is it that some people don’t even see this as an issue?
You might not be a racist, but you’re in a country that thrives off of supressing the lesser groups. Your country indulges itself in a luxurious ignorance. And to step out of this comfort zone, we must interact and learn from each other. The facts can be disputed (which white people are typically proud to do). The news head lines can be swayed politically.
But the connections you make with people who are different than yourself; that is where change happens. Seeing the reality of oppressed groups expressed through dance, reading lyrics pact with guilt, and marching alongside those who are still marching for freedom… It’s been a week.
Thank you, CMU, for your beautiful efforts in raising awareness for the age-old fight for freedom. Your MLK Week was filled with awesome opportunities to grow and become aware.
We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like, yet we just stand by
We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?
-Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, White Privilege II
Reading this article will certainly not make you a better person.
Going out into your community will make you a better person. Approaching groups that are different than you in a polite and honestly interested manner makes you a better person. Understanding that you will never know first hand what it’s like to wake up in the morning and know you will be judged for the color of your skin is a baby-step towards equality.
It starts with you.