A few years ago I learned that I have African blood coursing through my veins. I grew up thinking I was part Native American and Hispanic because that’s what my grandmother told our family. It wasn’t until after she died that I found out the truth. She had kept the black side of our heritage secret. I can’t pretend to know her reasons for hiding our ancestry, but I know for certain this revelation changed something in me. To discover that part of why I’m in this world is because black slaves somehow endured unimaginable hate, torture and oppression 400 years ago was a profoundly humbling and moving moment in my life.
Before I learned all this, I had of course, encountered racism many times as a brown man. I’ve had to sit through family gatherings listening to bigoted comments by people who don’t even realize they’re racist. I’ve been called brown bastard, monkey, spick, terrorist. When I was a kid I was attacked by a gang of 5 boys just for being brown (don’t worry, I beat the shit out of them) and I’ve even been called “nigger” once or twice. Most of the time people have no clue what nationality I am, so the racism I’ve experienced is a pale shade of what my African American family and friends go through on a daily basis just because of their skin color.
The constant profiling. The hate. The loss of breath.
As a human being, I’m outraged every time I hear about a black person being hurt or killed by racists, bad cops, or politicians and lawmakers who don’t care enough to improve this country. But as a man who literally owes my life to the black fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who persevered through bigotry and torment four centuries ago, the ongoing injustices that African Americans suffer on a daily basis in my country absolutely breaks my heart.
If you’re white and your heart breaks too because you believe in equality, you need to speak out. It’s not about party or politics. This issue transcends that. It’s about people of color being able to walk down the street without having to worry about getting their faces smashed against the pavement. It’s about doing what’s right.
As a white person who cares, you have the power to bring about social change in this world. You are the key to stopping the horrors perpetrated against brown and black people since your ancestors decided that ripping them away from a continent and enslaving them was just.
Please say something. Please do something. Stand for equality and freedom. Stand for love.
You can connect with these organizations to help make a difference:
Art by Steve McNiven