Injustice and inaction

These words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ring in my head:

I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. (Letter from a Birmingham Jail)

With the shooting of Philando Castile on Wednesday night, seeing his girlfriend’s video that she bravely took as the event was happening, listening all Thursday morning to protests and speeches, then going to a protest in front of the governor’s mansion Thursday afternoon and hearing the pain in protestors’ voices, I have my own confession.

I am the squishy moderate.

Listening to the different protestors speak yesterday I could make the same exact arguments as to “methods” and how I might disagree with what some said. But it was out of grief. It was out of anger. Out of fear.

Let me use these words with clarity: what we have is systemic racism. We have so much work to do and I cannot sit back and criticize certain words or methods any more. I must advocate. I must speak. I must join in with those who struggle in a way that helps. 

The plain thought from everyone I heard on Thursday, including Governor Mark Dayton, was this conclusion: If Philando Castile had been white and his family had been white, Philando Castile would be alive.

There is no getting around that thought. Even Governor Dayton didn’t politically qualify his thoughts on the matter.

A four year old girl watched her mom’s boyfriend get shot. A four year old girl sat in the back of a police cruiser with her mom in handcuffs. A four year old girl comforted her mother as she began to weep over the situation, saying, “It’s okay, mommy. I’m here.”

A four year old  black girl watched that happen. A four year old white girl would not be in that situation on Thursday morning.

Having that thought finally out in the open… even spoken by the governor… identifies a systemic problem. We have so much work to do. And work we must do.

I am so sorry for my silence. Please forgive me.



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