I’m sitting here, in front of my computer, looking over at my partner of almost fifteen years, and I can’t imagine what’s going on inside her head. A man was shot not two miles from our house and now she’s sitting, reading another insensitive, insulting, social media post about how people are being violent and not approaching the situation correctly, just because they dared to voice that they deserve the right to live.
I can’t imagine the pain in her mind when it’s someone she knows, a close friend making such a post. I can’t imagine the struggle to make words move from her brain to her fingers to reply, yet again, that they don’t understand. I can’t imagine the sadness when she sees another article, another post, another news clip broadcasting her pain for the world to see. I can’t image her utter anger at how people can dismiss her because she might wear a hoodie, might linger at the makeup counter, might have natural beautiful hair, might dare to breathe air too close for comfort. I can’t imagine the amount of pain due to something as stupid as a pigment in her skin, something she can’t hide or cover because it will always be there.
I can’t imagine growing up, being told that your people were once slaves, less than human, and that moment when she realized that movements and protests and assassinations that happened when her parents were children seem to have changed nothing. I can’t imagine seeing the endless parade of faces and names of men and women killed for the color of their skin and the creeping dread that one day she might know one of those faces. I can’t imagine the sadness when, once again, those names and faces are forgotten by the media, because there’s another happier and less depressing story to be told.
I can’t imagine the sheer frustration and need to scream when yet another person claims she isn’t doing enough. That she isn’t protesting correctly. That she isn’t acting in the ‘correct way’ to protect and save her people. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a stranger, or a friend, insist they know the simple answer to decades of protesting: “Why don’t you just do this?” as if all of those things haven’t been tried before. I can’t imagine the pain of knowing that person doesn’t really want to help - they just want the inconveniences to stop interrupting their privileged and happy world.
I can’t imagine falling asleep at night, in bed, listening to sounds outside the window and wondering if it’s a firecracker or a gunshot. I can’t imagine hearing that police siren passing by and wondering if another face will show up on the news and another man will walk away with no consequence. I can’t imagine her knowing that when she wakes up, there will be more posts, more memes, more people not understanding that her life is and continues to be a sad and painful hell because of the color of her skin.
I can’t imagine because I am white.
And if I can’t imagine, what can I even do?
I can stop. I can listen.
I can understand that even though I am a female and I am not christian and I am gay that I will never understand what it is like to be hated for something I can’t closet or deny. I can see that she was raised in this world, from the beginning, knowing that there will always be people, strangers, police officers, politicians who will hate her because her skin is darker than theirs. I can acknowledge that when the media stops paying attention, when the bodies are buried and when the protests die down there is still this deep pain that makes her want to stop and cry because she knows it will happen again.
I can step back. I can be a platform for her voice, share her words and her replies because they are so much more powerful than anything I could ever say. I can stop my friends and family from saying hateful things and yell “Listen to her!” because she and her people have been silenced and ignored and brushed to the side for too long. I can share articles with facts, showing the pain and the misery so that the world doesn’t forget their names and doesn’t forget that there are so many people they’ve pushed away who deserve the right to just exist without fear of dying.
I can be silent. When she breaks down and cries, or yells in frustration, I can close my mouth and realize that I can’t fix this problem. I can’t hand her a band-aid or a pill or a hug that will stop the festering, painful, cancer growing in our society. I can understand that she doesn’t need a quick fix, doesn’t need to be told it will be ok, and doesn’t need a vacation. I can accept the reality that this won’t end until she’s accepted and it’s going to be a long road until then. I can assure her that I’m here and that I, unlike the faceless hating hoard around her, don’t hate her and I can show that fact by supporting her.
I can accept that I can’t imagine her pain and I don't need to.
I will never be able to imagine what she is going through. I will never be able to offer that magical solution that will solve it in a night and make her life better. That’s not what she needs. I don’t need to understand what she is going through to be a decent human being and see her pain. I just need to be next to her, beside her and support her and join her in the simple statement that her life matters.
I can step away from the hatred, the denial, the cure-alls and realize that we - as a world - are not ok. That the world needs to change. And that the hatred, the denial and especially the killing needs to stop.