Online, I’m given a freedom I’ve yet to possess. I read, listen, and follow stories and events in the Black Lives Matter movement, but I rarely use my voice to speak up about it. Sure, part of that has to do with my introverted tendencies, but part of it has to do with my worry of saying or doing the wrong thing. However after reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, and news story after news story, I’ve learned how to use my voice in this important movement.
The voice of white people in the Black Lives Matter movement is found to be unnecessary by some, who believe that “the voice of that movement should be of the black lives who are continually oppressed and victimized by police.” On the other hand, some find it to be helpful and constructive, making it “so that black people don’t simply bear the burden of having to be [our own] advocates.” [NPR] Identifying the line between supporting the movement and trying to be the hero in the movement is an important step for white people when they voice their support
Too often in the past and present (and sadly in the future probably as well), white people get all the glory and rarely are depicted as the “bad guys” in the stories we hear as children. Up until middle school, I never really questioned the actions of Christopher Columbus, George Washington, or Abraham Lincoln. Since then I’ve learned of their poor or even merciless treatment and opinions of minorities and have had teachers that allowed us to question just how great these “American heroes” were, as well as the color of their skin.
Very little throughout our childhood – and for many, throughout their whole lives – are we taught to question the point of view of our teachers, our textbooks, or the media. I’ve spent hours of my summers hearing Fox News blaring on the TV that my grandparents are watching, listening to them discuss what they see and not even questioning the source or looking for other channels to watch. In seeing this, I realize how harmful it is to only listen to one side of the story – in this case, the white side.
So, that being said, I understand where people who find the voice of white people in the Black Lives Matter movement harmful or unnecessary are coming from. Black people are understandably tired of the hundreds of years of white voices being the only ones heard, and quite frankly I am too, and they deserve to be listened to. As for whether or not I want to speak on behalf of the movement, I will continue to share the voices of others who need to be heard more than I do. While I’ll continue to show my support and speak up when the time is right, it is also time for white people to step back and listen to someone else for a change.