Open Ears, Open Hearts, Open Shoulders – ELGL’s Response to this Time of Upheaval

Posted on June 2, 2020

Christian Williams

*This post contains language and terms that might trigger or incite some readers.

As an American, a black American, and a person who is often viewed as a second class citizen both personally and in professional environments, this past week has been tough. It was hard to watch the events that unfolded in Minnesota and across the country. It was hard to watch the myriad of social media posts and opinions concerning the event.

It was hard to relive all the times, in my life, I was called a Nigger or have been told you can’t because, “you are black” or had physical harm threatened against me. It was hard to watch my fellow black Americans deal with the pains from their past and present be ripped open and re exposed to the elements and injuries that happen every day.

This weekend has been filled with soul searching, reaching out to family and trusted friends, asking about the past, reflecting on the present, and thinking about what the future looks like for me, my family and our country.

I never imagined I would have to provide so much education to people who have little to no idea what is going on or why hearts are so heavy. I never thought I would have to justify my blackness or discuss with people, publicly and openly all of the vulnerable times I felt unsafe or sad.

While this has been frustrating and ripped open old wounds, it is a role that I believe is needed in America right now; some people are completely sheltered from the pains and experiences we have shared even though it happens right in front of their blind eyes.

If I can bring even a hint of awareness or deeper thought, then for me it is worth it to go through the emotions and angst of this week.

For those of you who might be reading this who have no idea what I am talking about or have never asked a black person about these issues, I am going to give you a peek inside of one perspective.

Keep in mind there are many perspectives, some will not agree with me, and you should ask other people what their perspectives are, don’t just assume this is the perspective.

I am going to be vulnerable and post a few messages I have sent people who have asked me about the issues this week. I am shaking as I post this but I am going to do it because I hope it will further the conversation:

“I doubt the government will ever provide a fix or solutions to our systematic problems. We all individually need to be the change and solution. We are built to fear and not to understand the “other” we go back to our respective neighborhoods and never have to interact with “the other” thus we remain strangers we fear and act out on unreal fears.

The only thing I can offer is to interact and have real conversations with those who view me and others like me as the other, in hopes they realize I and others are people and shouldn’t be feared. We share the same hopes, dreams and fears and have so much more in common than place of birth or coverings. We will never remove the stranger title if we go back to our homes and our old friends and our safety nets. Awareness is one step; learning from meaningful interactions is another.”

“Nobody is going to save me or fix this so I have to do what I need to do to survive, protect myself and fix it on my own the best I can or I’ll never live, I’ll just be a living slave to society as well as myself. It’s not what you say. And I don’t say “you” to single you out, I am going to zoom out to a more universally individual standpoint, as I often like to do. It’s not what you post. It’s not saying you stand against racism. It’s not about claiming you fight it. 

Saying something doesn’t necessarily fix problems. It’s what you do. It’s about your actions and how you treat people. It’s how you behave when no one is watching you on social media. It’s how you act or incite your non-minority friends behind closed doors. It’s how you treat or secretly view black people. It’s how you listen to black people or respect black people or how you listen to what black people have to say or are trying to say. It’s how you support individual black people and how that supports the collective.

When the protest ends and the cameras turn off. What is left? Individuals, and what are those individuals going to do for us when the hype and popularity is gone? The hope in me says…nothing.

I will always be a second class citizen and no one but myself is going to save me. I hope I am wrong, but individuals or the collective aren’t coming for me or people like me. They are just afraid and never really want to get to know me. Their pride and privilege and isolation gets in the way. 

In my eyes it’s not the cops. The cops are the easy way to target anger. The cops are us. They are born of us and raised by us and act out like us. They have guns and kill. But it’s society’s racism that really kills. Black people may not get shot by guns every day (in every city) but we get shot. To fix the cops we have to fix the people. People become cops. Some Racist people become cops. Fix people and you fix the cops.”

“I just want people to treat other people nicely and try to understand their unique perspectives and experiences, even if they don’t agree with their life choices or outcomes. I think we have a lot to learn from one another.”

“I hope you realize that just because I grew up in a very white state, I am black and get treated like s**t all the time and just because I don’t talk about it a lot I am very black and not immune from the s**t that happens in this country.

I have gone on walks and had white people throw s**t out of their truck and call me a racial slur. I had a guy scream Nigger at me across a casino in Vegas. As a kid, I was told I couldn’t go to a birthday party because “no blacks allowed at my birthday”. The list goes on.

I deal with being black every day even if you don’t see it…having a job, working hard, my education, my neighborhood and my childhood will never shield my coverings and the bulls**t that comes with these coverings; including having this conversation time and time again.

Despite that, I wouldn’t change who I am for the world and am happy to engage and share my perspective because what America lacks is this very conversation”.

After having these conversations this weekend, I took a night walk and sat on my local park bench and processed my feelings. A random SUV drove by and I saw them turn around near the park.

I thought about how it would feel to be thrown onto the hot Arizona pavement, surrounded by strangers and killed in the street for, <you name it> or sitting in my own neighborhood park and looking up at the stars. As evident by the incidents in New York, it takes one person to think you don’t belong. Add any misunderstanding to the mix and death could ensue. At that point, I left the park.

A question that was posed this week was, how can ELGL support members at this time? I think a better question is, how can we support members who are exponentially impacted by what is happening today?

We are all different, despite our shared commonality, we all have different stories, different fears, different hopes and different experiences. We all have different needs. We are not a one-size fits all people and the solution and our needs will not be one-size fits all.

So a better question is, how can myself or ELGL support you. Open ears, open hearts, open shoulders. If you need anything in this crazy time, that in some ways is everyday, please know that myself and the rest of the board are here to listen.

If you need to talk or have thoughts, my twitter is @mypublictweeter and my email address is [email protected]. The ELGL board is also here to listen and we welcome your conversation and thoughts:

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