We’ve all seen the horrors happening all over the country lately – black kids being shot and killed by police, black rioters in Boston being labeled as thugs, a white cop throwing a black girl to the ground and shoving her face into the grass, and now a white kid shooting and killing 9 people in a church. Where does it end?
As a white person, I’ve stayed out of all of it, partly because it’s not something that I can really comprehend, but mostly because I was afraid of offending people and starting arguments and fights between people. But I can’t ignore it and I can’t stay silent. Being silent about it is part of the problem. Not acknowledging it is part of the problem. Silence is just as damaging.
White privilege exists. It’s that simple. That’s what allows us to turn the news when we get “tired of hearing about it” and going about our lives. It’s what allows us to say things like “he was troubled or mentally ill,” “we don’t have all the facts yet,” “gun reform could have prevented this,” or “why does everything have to be about race?” It’s what allows us to look at a situation and try to find a reason for a person’s actions other than race because we don’t want to believe that racism is still as huge of a problem as it is. We’re so afraid of admitting that it exists; we want to say that we’ve come a long way, but we ignore the fact that, while we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go before there is true equality.
I’ve had a privileged life. I’ve never directly experienced racism. I’ve never been racially profiled. I’ve never been followed in a store because the owner was afraid I would steal. I have the privilege of looking at police officers as people who are held to higher standards, who provide safety and security. I’ve never had to be afraid of them. Because of this, there is a part of racism that I will never understand and that allows me to look at each of these situations differently. But it also blinds me and gives me the ability to be desensitized to everything happening around me.
A kid who shoots and kills 9 black people in a church after saying that they’re invading our country and need to leave is troubled or mentally ill – he’s racist. A young girl should never be thrown to the ground, dragged by her hair, and sat on by a man twice her size even if she was mouthing off. There shouldn’t be an entire group of people who are afraid of the people who should be there to protect them and keep them safe. Things need to change. Our attitudes need to change. Being silent won’t fix anything. Saying nothing only adds to the problem.
I’ve always loved writing. I was the crazy girl in school who was excited about writing a 15 page research paper and who actually liked the weekly grammar tests. I love the power of words and I would love, more than anything, to be one of those people who can add something to the world through words. Alas, it is not meant to be (or something to that effect). I could write forever, but there’s one small problem: I have zero ideas. I have the ability to write. I have the desire to write. Ideas evade me though. The blank screen mocks me and begs me to write a word, a sentence, a paragraph – anything. But the words never come. And the screen remains blank.
The Book Thief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“To most people, Hans Hubermann was barely visible. An un-special person. Certainly, his painting skills were excellent. His musical ability was better than average. Somehow, though, and I’m sure you’ve met people like this, he was able to appear as merely part of the background, even if he was standing at the front of a line. He was always just there. Not noticeable. Not important or particularly valuable.The frustration of that appearance, as you can imagine, was its complete misleadence, let’s say. There most definitely was value in him, and it did not go unnoticed by Liesel Meminger. (The human child – so much cannier at times than the stupefyingly ponderous adult.) She saw it immediately.
The quiet air around him.
When he turned the light on in the small, callous washroom that night, Leisel observed the strangeness of her foster father’s eyes. They were made of kindness, and silver. Like soft silver, melting. Liesel, upon seeing those eyes, understood that Hans Hubermann was worth a lot.”
This quote says it all – when I first read it, I immediately identified with it. I’ve always felt that I wasn’t noticeable or particularly memorable, that I was just there. But I’ve also always known who I was: I am a nice person, happy to stand in the background if that’s what needed, there to help anyone and do everything I can to make someone’s day or life better. I’m sure many of you identify with this quote as well. I like to think that everyone does – not because I want everyone to feel unimportant, but because I like to think that everyone IS important in his or her own way, even if it goes unnoticed. I think that the people described above are the best kind of people because they do things not for attention, gratification, or recognition, but because those things are the right things to do.
If you haven’t read The Book Theif by Markus Zusak, I highly recommend it. If you have, you know that this quote defines Hans Hubermann perfectly, as he is one of those who would do the right thing for no reason other than that it is the right thing to do.
This quote by Walt Disney has always inspired and intrigued me – as a child, my ambitions and dreams always seemed to be possible to me; in fact, I don’t think that I thought of anything as impossible. I guess that’s one thing that is unique and special about kids. I had the usual dreams – be an olympic gymnast (surprisingly my most realistic dream as I was already a competitive gymnast), be a veterinarian, be a writer, and (perhaps the best one) be a cartoon. Looking back, I regret not pursuing my olympic dreams and I like to imagine how my life would have been different if I had. Regardless, growing up, as we all know, changes how we think and even how we dream.
Having recently graduated college, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with my life and what would be my ideal job and I’ve realized something: why do we, as adults, stop trying to do the impossible? When do we stop dreaming and, more importantly, WHY do we stop dreaming? If I had to answer that question, I would say it’s because of money. My first priority getting out of college is not to find my dream job – it’s to just find a job so that I can get some income to pay my bills. I imagine that’s how it is for everyone. And, once we find that, we stop looking because the bills are getting paid. But is that really the most important thing?
If I had to be honest, I would say that my dream job is to work with Disney Animation Studios as a rotoscope artist. And, as of right now, that is an impossible dream because I don’t have the skills or the experience. But right here, right now, for all of you to see, I vow to not give up on that dream. Like Walt Disney said – it’s FUN to do the impossible.
So I challenge all of you – think about your dreams again. Set goals to accomplish them. Don’t let money be the most important thing and the driving factor behind all of your decisions.
In recent years, I have forgotten how much I love music. Not only listening to it, but making it. I picked up my guitar and my violin for the first time yesterday in years and it was one of the best reunions. While my fingers officially hurt because I had lost my callouses, I am so glad that I was able to be reunited with my first love – music.
I’ve always believed that music has the power to change the world. It’s real and it portrays all of the emotion and thought that people don’t always know how to express. Music builds bonds between people and helps them know that they’re not alone in what they think and feel. Music can save lives. Lyrics are pure poetry – they extend right to a person’s soul and make it home, staying there forever. Go listen to a song you haven’t heard in years and you’ll still remember all the words.
I encourage everyone to look past the sound of a song – look past it to find the song’s true nature and what it means to you. Music has the power to heal if you let it.