Black in America

I find it difficult to talk about race.  I was born of privilege.  I come from Scottish, Irish, and English ancestry, with a few Germans or other European ancestors mixed in.  My family never owned slaves, as far as I know.  I live in a state with a 1% black population.  I have 2 black Facebook friends, neither of whom I contact regularly.  I am just about as far removed from the plight of my darker skinned brothers and sisters as anyone could be in this country. 

Remembering George Floyd: Devoted father, 'gentle giant' | USA ...


So, when something like what happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, or Breonna Taylor happens, I say to myself, “Who am I to speak to this?  What right as a white, privileged, middle-class male do I have to stand up and say anything about this?”  It was at about the time this line of questioning was going through my mind, that I ran across an Instagram post from some famous black American saying, “White people are all posting tick-tock videos while black people mourn.”

I guess I needed someone to give me permission to speak out, so I’m writing this article.  But how does one like me speak out?  I mean, I have the Latter-day Saints in Action Podcast that I do.  I have this forum to write articles on Mormonpress.  What else can I possibly do? 

I began to search more and more into the lives of my black brothers and sisters.  I cried as I read stories, watched videos, and learned.  One man shared how he always brings his fluffy dog and his daughter on his walks, for his protection.  If he brings them along, people looking out their windows see a loving dad taking his little girl and dog for a walk.  If he walks alone, they see a threat and call the police.  He could die.

Another video I watched showed an interview of a father and daughter.  The girl showed what they practice at home when confronted by police.  The daughter raises her hands in the air and says, “I am Ariel Williams.  I am 8 years old.  I am unarmed and I have nothing that will hurt you.”  At one point in the conversation, while her daddy talks about being tazed and thrown to the ground for no reason, she starts crying and gives her dad a hug.  The dad responds with love and understanding, “I’m alive.  I get to come hug you and tuck you in every night.”

Another video was a black man just talking about his likes and dislikes, “I’m a vegan.  I like to watch old musicals.  Oklahoma is my favorite.”  After telling more and more things about himself, he ends with, “I just wanted you to know me before you called the police.”

My wife’s and my first house was in West Jordan and shortly after we moved in, a black man bought the house next door.  He was a former San Diego Chargers football player.  We worked together on a few projects around his yard and mine, repairing the fence or digging out a stump.  I didn’t think much about it at the time, but one of my neighbors told me, “I saw a black man hanging around your house!” 

“Yeah, he’s my neighbor.  Really good guy.” I responded.  Looking back now I see the neighbor was trying to warn me.  Because he’s black, he must be a threat. 

Once I watched the videos and took inventory of my own past, I wondered what else I could do?  How do I teach my children?  How do I retrain my own bias?  I found several resources for actionable items.  The most comprehensive of which is a list of 75 ideas in this medium article.  I read through it.  I’m planning on doing several.

After a couple nights of fitful sleep, my wife and I talked through things we could do and decided to donate to Campaign Zero, a group that is working on lasting systemic changes to how police interact with people.  Others could donate to the NAACP, Black Lives Matter or any number of other networks providing help to black folks.  If you can’t donate, look for other resources to invest time and create connections.

I feel like this past week a light turned on and I could see more clearly.  Who will join me in making our world a little safer for our friends and neighbors, safer for our fellow Americans?

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Elisabeth Westwood
    commented 2020-06-04 07:54:52 -0700
    Thanks for taking the time to listen to people stories. It makes me think of when I put together a Take Back the Night years ago, when I was in college. Take Back the Night is a nationwide event to raise awareness about domestic abuse and violence against women. I was talking about how as women we are taught to always be alert for possible danger& concerned for our safety, and mentioned being warned repeatedly not to walk alone after dark, because you might be attacked or raped. A man who was there said that he would never have thought of feeling fear of walking alone at night, and hearing about my experiences opened up a new understanding for him. I think this is similar to the need for white people to listen to people of color and understand that the very real fear they have of being accused of something by the police. It’s bad enough to worry about a dangerous stranger hurting or killing you. How would it feel to fear the people who’s job is supposed to be to protect you?

Subscribe Share


get updates