I went camping this weekend. I went camping with my two best friends. I went camping at a gay campground on a weekend that celebrated light with amazing displays of neon colors and festive creative looks. Gays from all over converged to indulge in a free spirited playground of poolside drinks and long nights of sweaty filthy dance parties. It was wonderful.
As a treat to myself, I decided I’d disconnect from my phone and give my full attention to the beautiful souls in front of me, checking only once a day just in case someone I loved beyond the campground needed me.
On Saturday night, as I was still buzzing from the libidinous energy of the night, I settled into my air mattress and turned on my phone.
Fortunately, my texts were few and about nothing significant.
And then I opened Facebook and felt my heart shatter into a thousand pieces. The real world crashed down on me as a helplessly scrolled my newsfeed.
I don’t need to recount for you the horrible details. By now you know about the incomprehensibly devastating actions of the Alt-Right movement in Chartlottesville, Virginia, how they inflicted terror on their fellow humans in an act of unspeakable rage and hatred.
It’s moment like these that ask me to reflect on my own actions and think about my responsibility in all of this. How easy it is to say, “Who would do something like this?,” or “These are the worst kind of white people,” or “I’m nothing like them,” with an inflated sense of pride as if not having the impulse to drive a car into a crowd of people is something to be proud of. It’s not.
It’s not enough anymore to be a white person who simply distances himself from white racist xenophobes. It’s not enough to feel sad and mortified and feel comfortable because I know I’m not like that. It’s not enough to accept that simply loving the people of color in my life will bridge the vast violent expanse between us all.
It’s time for me, and frankly all white people, to take action. As I figure out how to begin, how to turn this heartbreak into action, I write this pledge to clarify my mission and to hold myself accountable to you, whoever you are who reads this. I hope you will support me.
To people of color:
I pledge to:
- Continue to read, watch and listen to your stories so that I may better grasp your experience.
- Push myself to become an accomplice, not just an ally.
- Remember your needs have to come first.
- Accept that my privilege may always be a barrier between us.
- Find ways to leverage my privilege to help advance your cause whenever I can.
- Stand behind you when you need my support.
- Stand in front of you in order to protect you from dangerous white aggressors.
- Always ask you what you need instead of assuming I have any fucking clue what that might be.
- Respect that you are all individuals, nuanced in your reaction to every act of violence.
- Understand that sharing a post does not equal activism
- Help other white people understand our privilege.
- Allow other voices speak before mine and engage myself in true listening.
- Love you as fully as I can.
To my fellow white people:
I pledge to:
- Use what I learn to help teach you how to be a better citizen of our world, in the end always directing you to the source, accepting that I am never an expert on the feelings of people of color.
- Encourage you to do better by confronting you when you say something problematic and not just silently rolling my eyes.
- Have difficult conversations which might make us both squirm because people are dying in these streets and that’s way worse than a botched dinner party.
- Remind myself that loving someone fully also means embracing the worst of them but progress comes when we work through those hard moments rather than pretending they don’t exist.
I remind myself that love should be unconditional and active. I accept that by turning this pain into positive action, I might see sides of people, white people, that I do not like. I already have. But turning away or blocking these people does not solve the problem. It only makes us more oblivious to each other’s point of view.
I hope that our world can be better. I’m not sure how we can fix it or how I can make a difference but I intend to work towards a better tomorrow that embraces us all. You are all beautiful and I respect you as much as I love you which is a whole heck of a lot.