Last night, in anticipation of the grand jury decision regarding the murder of Michael Brown, I curled up in bed and turned to Twitter. I followed the Ferguson hashtag because I believed it would give me the news faster than any other source and as I scrolled through the feed, I could feel the tension and the fear and the hopelessness and all those feelings resonated with me. But I was not prepared to see white people using the tag to spew hate, to see pictures of monkeys with captions that said things like "Live outside the courtroom" or to see people using every possible racial slur to demean those praying for justice.
I mention this because it's a reminder to every one of us that the protests and the anger and the calls for justice are not just about Michael Brown and Darren Wilson and Ferguson. The issue is systemic racism and bigotry. We live in a country where police officers beat and murder the people they are supposed to protect, where citizens feel completely comfortable taunting and abusing people of color in a public forum.
There are many who would rather talk about cigarillos and the disrespect of an officer and looting than to sit back and say, "What the hell is happening and what do we do about it?"
Since Michael Brown's death on August 9th of this year, I have argued with people who will not be moved. I have called out people for tweeting about cookies while our fellow citizens were being gassed in Ferguson. I have wasted time and energy on battles that would do nothing to take the dialogue further. I forgot a lesson I learned long ago from my experiences with homophobia: you can't talk someone out of entrenched bigotry.
I have seen people say that their hearts go out to their black friends and, of course, they deserve our love because the issue hits them differently. But, it is not their issue alone.
It is ours.
My heart goes out to all those who believe in justice and equality because the grand jury verdict in Ferguson is a blow to us all.
In August, I wrote about an incident from my past that I want to share again,
I remember going to visit my mother in southern Missouri where she had retired and feeling anxious the entire time. Partially because I’d come out and partially because my politics and my understanding of the world had changed. I remember standing in her kitchen when a family member stopped by for a visit and casually mentioned that a group of neonazis had gathered nearby and he said, “They want to get rid of the n****** and faggots. Hell, I’ll pay them to do it.” I was horrified, terrified, and never said a word.
I bring up this story today because those who are filled with hate will come for all of us. They will distort and divide and confuse the issues. Just last night, in a Ferguson protest in Seattle, some took the opportunity to use the situation to call for a boycott of Israel, fanning the flames of anti-semitism that have been burning brighter worldwide.
So, I am not here to argue. I am here to do my work. I am here to amplify the voices that need to be heard. I will make mistakes but I am here.
Here are a few things to read:
Grappling with Privilege
PHOTO CREDIT: KYMBERLI BARNEY