I didn’t watch the video of George Floyd’s murder.
I didn’t watch the video of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, either.
Their dying breaths.
At the hands of White Authority.
Careless disregard for lives deemed less valuable, less worthy — just LESS — than their own.
I hide the videos as they pop up in my Facebook feed, even while I read the articles, the calls to action, the statements of outrage, and the cries of grief.
I hid the photograph of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian refugee whose body washed up on the coast of Turkey after his boat capsized in the Mediterranean, too. And the picture of Oscar and Valeria Ramirez, the father and his toddler daughter who died trying to swim the Rio Grande from Mexico to a better life in the U.S.
And I can’t decide whether all the hiding means I’m selfishly protecting myself from the horror and gross injustice — an act of privilege since I don’t live the life of a person of color in the U.S. nor that of a refugee balancing peril and hope — or whether the “hide” click is an act of sacred solidarity with the mommies of those who are lost. Because I would never want video of my sons’ violent deaths to be internet fodder. Because I want to honor the stark grief and impossible pain of Ahmaud’s mama Wanda Cooper-Jones, and Alan’s mama Rehana Kurdi, and Victoria’s mama Rose Ramirez. I want to honor the sanctity of George Floyd’s cries for his dead mama.
But if I’m honest, it’s both. Both the privilege that exemplifies whiteness in this country — I can “hide” what’s horrific because it’s not embedded in the life I live or the air I breathe — and respect for these precious lives lost.
So I keep wondering if I should watch the videos. If I should see the photographs. If that’s its own sacred act of bearing witness to the monstrous, seething underbelly of our culture and the way it crushes people of color to retain its wealth and power.
I keep wondering what are the boundaries I need in order to maintain my own mental health versus where do I need to pull my head out of the sand?
On the one hand, with the advent of the internet, there’s too much constant access to every horrific event in the world. Our human brains can’t possibly cope with the firehouse of all of it, and trying to consume it all, all at once, will surely kill us. On the other hand, by not consuming it, we’re allowing others to die in our place from existing in the midst of the horror. If those of us with privilege corporately took off our blinders and LOOKED and FELT the repugnance and disgust and dismay inherent in the maltreatment, oppression, and abuses of our fellow humans, would we finally act? Is this what it means to die to ourselves that others might live? Is this what it means to have our hearts broken and remade in the Image of Love? Is this what it takes to put others first and fight for equity?
I don’t know, Diary. I don’t know whether I’m just a coward for hiding or a human whose heart is open to learn. Or, more accurately, I don’t know what percentage I am of each. 40% Coward and 60% Open? 99% Coward and 1% Open?
I don’t know.
But these are the questions running through my heart and my mind this week, and you’re my Diary, so you have to listen.
P.S. This post is all about ME which is a Classic White Person Blunder in responding to inequity. I want to acknowledge that, friends, while also noting that the COVID Diaries are just that — real diary entries — so they contain my real thoughts, even when they’re unflatteringly self-focused. However, here are some articles I’ve been reading and humans I follow who have Important, Helpful Perspectives instead of, you know, self-centered ones:
“I need white mamas to come running” — a CNN Opinion piece by Christy Oglesby
Everything by Ally Henny of The Armchair Commentary — the truths she writes make me uncomfortable on the regular, and that’s made me change, for which I’m grateful
5 Racist Anti-Racism Responses “Good” White Women Give to Viral Posts — FYI, my blog post above is guilty of the one about making this about me — #confession
How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibrim X. Kendi — because **hint** YOU ARE ALMOST CERTAINLY RACIST, and I am, too — it’s not enough to declare yourself “not racist,” you actually have to actively counter the insidious racism that permeates each of us and our culture