Sir: In the year I was born, the United States took steps forward and steps back. In separate milestones, state bans on interracial marriage were ruled as unconstitutional and violent clashes like the Detroit riot erupted across the country.
Through the love of two people, I came into this world. As their child, my parents nurtured me and showed me that my opportunities didn’t need to be dictated by the colour of my skin or the curl in my hair.
In my lifetime, I have had the privilege of living in a place that is very much like the United States, but different all the same. Unknowingly, as I grew up, I learned the lessons of how to hold myself to allay suspicion, how to avoid a fight, how to use my voice.
My parents and my community taught me how to be the best that I could be without lecturing me on why it needed to be so.
I have faced moments when I learned that people didn’t care for me for reasons I couldn’t comprehend.
I have acted, perhaps rashly, when an acquaintance said something they felt was harmless and funny.
I have consumed American media all my life. From Sesame Street to “Do you know where your children are?” PSAs, to the beating of Rodney King, I have had a window into a society I could only partially understand.
For the last four days, I have been sad. I have been sad because I don’t want to be angry. I now struggle with my emotions as I try to find a constructive outlet. I’m searching for the reasons that men and women keep dying disadvantaged by the colour of their skin. I’ve settled on fear, ignorance, and institutions that provide no room for inclusiveness.
Now, I’m left with what next? What can I do to make change? How do I go about making change?
I have started right here by laying bare my hurt.
In my life, my greatest allies have been the people that I have worked with shoulder to shoulder. The people that I have depend on and that have depended on me to work to a common goal. So, here I am, asking this question; what is the right way to get on the same side?
Protest is necessary to draw focused attention to something that is at hand. Protest in objection to inequality by both individuals (Rosa Parks) and by groups (Greensboro Four) has opened hearts and minds in the past.
What will our contribution be for those that come after us? I do not know.