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There is a lot for our hearts to be heavy about right now. The horrific tragedy of George Floyd’s death, displays of hate and racism, peaceful protests that turn into damage, destruction, and more needless loss of life. What can we do?
Let me ask you this: what would YOU want a bystander to do if they witnessed someone treating you poorly? What about bad behavior towards your child? What about your family members or friends? We have to be on watch and stand up for one another always, whether it’s online or on the street.
What can we do? What can I do? Is it really going to make a difference?
This is the number one question I’ve been hearing from those who aren’t marching the streets. YES, any little bit helps and will absolutely make a difference. We are all still scrolling, and chances are you’ve seen some comments (or actions) either online or in-person that may be questionable, or that support unjustly throwing around blame, inequality, racism, or just flat out cause hurt to others.
I received a notification on Nextdoor from a neighbor who feels concerned about her family’s safety while walking in the neighborhood because she is black. What day and age are we in when we don’t feel safe walking around our own neighborhoods because of racism? My neighbor said that the treatment she receives from others has gotten notably worse since the death of George Floyd. She has been made to feel like a criminal for living and breathing because of her skin color. I’m sorry, but this is not okay and it has to stop — NOW.
Examples of ongoing racism and hurtful behavior in our online communities
The comments listed here are all recent and very real comments that were posted on Nextdoor in our Charleston community. Please note, these comments may be triggering and hard to read. All quotes and commentary listed in this section were provided by my neighbor to show her experience online as a black woman in our community.
On Nextdoor there is a post about the curfew that was enacted on May 30th, which has over 163 comments. One of the many people who posted found Mayor Tecklenburg to blame for the looting during the protests and said,
“This will not end unless our leaders get backbones and do something!”
Another went on to say,
“If you are truly concerned with blacks being murdered, you may want to pursue the FBI crime stats and see who (is) doing the majority of the killing.”
The same gentleman continues in a later comment,
“Since we’re counting numbers, let’s count how many more whites are killed by blacks during the same time. If you took a month to pretend you were an actual intelligent individual & reviewed the numbers maybe you wouldn’t sound so ignorant (facts don’t lie). Regarding “extra-judicial” killings again, I would recommend looking at documented statistics & not your Facebook or Twitter feed. Some of us are “fed up” up with a certain segment of society that never takes responsibility for their own existence, getting really fed up.”
That statement alone was super racist and ignorant alluding to all black murders by the use of excessive police force are being recorded as such and wants the black community to take responsibility for their existence.
“Show weakness and your office precincts will be in ashes.”
“White privilege! Who came up with that term? Guilty liberals. Which is part of the problem. You can’t hand out free stuff and have lower expectations of the recipients. This automatically excludes them from any ownership. I find that term so offensive. I would say most of the people you considered “privileged” worked hard to achieve their economic status. I doubt if they get a monthly “white privilege” check.”
Here this man is so delusional that he misunderstands the term and then attributes it to economic status which is still systematically structured in a way where POC (People of Color), not just blacks are oftentimes left with crumbs.
One man even went as far as to call POC involved “animals”. This comment was later reported.
Misplacing blame and spreading false information
Several people referred to people as “Thugs” who participated in the protests and possibly the destruction that ensued, the same way that the current president did in this post referring to black people, that was flagged by Twitter. When the Charlottesville, VA White Supremacy protest happened his response were “very nice people” used to describe those participating.
“Black Lives Matter are most likely behind this like they were after the Dylan Roof Murders”…”I heard there are young white people who are PAID by these groups to protest.”
I shouldn’t even have to comment on where the blasphemy and ignorance is in this comment.
Another person posted videos from Influencewatch, which is known to report exclusively false news in order to get more viewers.
Another man, who I will not repeat his comment suggests that this is the perfect time for POC to incite violence.
“The Black Lives Matter Group is a well-known Home Grown Terrorist Organization and radical hate groups.”
I want to thank my neighbor (who will remain anonymous), for bringing these comments and her viewpoint on them to light. Is it possible that some of the authors of these comments didn’t even realize that they were making extremely hurtful statements? I’m not sure about that. Are they hard to read? Yes. How will they know better if WE don’t speak up? Stand up? Say something? Anything.
How do we make a difference?
It starts within each one of us. If you see something, SAY SOMETHING. Stand with our neighbors and friends. Maybe you aren’t comfortable with protesting – that’s okay! I haven’t personally walked the protest lines, but I stand by my friends who do peacefully protest, and I stand by the need for immediate change. We are ALL sisters and brothers, regardless of color, religion, politics, gender, sexual identity, you name it. We are all the same. Let that sink in for a minute. We are ALL EXACTLY THE SAME. We all go to sleep and wake up. We all have a different story to tell. We all have our very own set of unique fingerprints. And we all happen to be living and breathing on this planet at the very same time. What are the odds of that? We need to band together to create positive change and it starts within our communities. It starts in our homes.
Stand UP: Lead by example
I’ll say it again, if you see something — say something. Stand up for your neighbor. I’m not talking about engaging in fights or arguments online or in person. Be kind. Now is the time to be a real thought leader. To be a leader in your house, in your neighborhood, in your workplace, among your friends, at the grocery store, anywhere you go. It is our responsibility to love one another and to spread kindness in our communities. Leading by example is the best difference that you can make, and every drop in the bucket counts. Check out this link to 10 actionable ways you can make a difference in the face of crisis.
Living Day to Day
I asked my neighbor to share some insight on what she goes through as a black woman in our community, her responses are as follows:
Do you feel that you’ve had to adjust your everyday life in any way (because of our current & recent events)?
I don’t have to adjust my everyday life, because this is the reality of black people and POC. I get questioned about my employment or why I have nice things. I can walk into a room with white people for a job interview and get stared at. People touch my hair without asking. I just have to make educated decisions on which situations I can still be somewhat successful in. Here’s an example. I love skiing. I’ve been doing it forever. When I go skiing, at least once when I take my skis to ski check, I will either be questioned about (the ownership of) them then or when I come to retrieve them. This happens at the same resort I’ve been going to since I was 15.
If you could say anything to help educate those who need to be educated the most, what would it be?
For those who want to help and don’t know what to do: It’s OKAY for you not to understand what I go through. Just know it’s wrong and if you see it speak up! Being an ally is invaluable to me and others.
For those who still don’t understand racism: Think of Goldilocks. SHE broke into the bears’ house and the BEARS got in trouble.
How can the local community at large help promote positive change?
Identifying microaggressions of racism, actions of the larger sort, behaviors, and calling them out. They happen everywhere. In your own home, at work, school, the grocery store, you name it. Some people honestly don’t know they are doing it and have the best intentions but correcting them will put something in their head to associate that behavior with it being bad.
Let’s do better. Love your neighbors. Love each other. We are all the same. If you see something, say something — and above all BE KIND.