Reasons I Can’t Study Right Now

Two years ago, three of my closest friends got pulled over on the road that runs right by campus. All three were men of color. The white police officer had the power to pull them over. She gave the reason that there was someone in the back seat who “appeared to be moving around, maybe hiding drugs or a gun.”

I am not that police officer. That’s not me.

I didn’t get pulled over for my skin color. That’s not me.

In July, an American I never met and never saw was confronted by the police. He was a man of color. The white police officers had the power to detain him. They gave the reason that he was selling loose cigarettes. He protested his innocence. They immobilized him with force. They killed him. He lived in this country. He had a life, and it mattered.

I am not those police officers. That’s not me.

I am not Eric Garner. That’s not me.

I have felt disconnected from the “Black Lives Matter” movement. My white friends have felt disconnected. White people in general have felt disconnected. I struggle with this reality. But I have come to the following conclusion, and wish to express it. The disconnect that non-racist white people experience can be boiled down to a question: When we already treat others the way we wish to be treated, and when we don’t experience racism from police, how can we connect to “Black Lives Matter?” It is hard for non-racist white people to relate to Eric Garner’s killing and the problems it exposes for two reasons. First, we disassociate ourselves from the accused police officer: “We would never do that, that’s not me.” We are not part of the in-group that commits acts of violent, targeted racism. Second, we disassociate ourselves from the victim: “The police have never treated me that way, that’s not me.” We are not part of the in-group that experiences acts of violent, targeted racism.

With every new accused attacker I think, that’s not me. With every new victim I think, that’s not me. It would be hard to ignore that these terrible things have happened even if I wanted to, because they fill up social media and traditional media alike. But I don’t want to ignore it. I want to connect to it. However, it is easy to see why I struggle. It is easy to see why others like me tune out. It is easy to see why white people disconnect.

I do not like having to think about my friends in any other way than their just being my friends. I do not like having to admit that while I may see them as folks who inspire me and influence how I live my life, there are people in our country in positions of power who sometimes only see my friends by the color of their skin. I do not like having to think about their skin color, because it is not something normally I do. That’s not me.

I do not like having to think about members of my community in any other way than their just being members of my community. I do not like having to admit that while I may see them as other college students around campus, there are people in our country in positions of power who sometimes only see members of my community by the color of their skin. I do not like having to think about their skin color, because it is not something I do. That’s not me.

I do not like having to think about the Americans who I have not met, and who I do not see, in any other way than just being Americans like me. I do not like having to admit that while I may think of them as people with lives that matter, there are people in our country in positions of power who sometimes only see members of my country by the color of their skin. I do not like having to think about the color of their skin, because it is not something I do. That’s not me.

But I don’t disconnect just because that’s not me who pulled someone over for the color of their skin. I don’t disconnect just because that’s not me who killed a man. And I don’t disconnect just because that’s not me who has power and targets black people unfairly. I stand up because that shouldn’t be anyone.

And I don’t disconnect just because that’s not me who got pulled over. I don’t disconnect just because that’s not me who was targeted. And I don’t disconnect just because that’s not me who was killed. I stand up because that shouldn’t be anyone.

Don’t separate yourself from issues that matter, from other lives that matter.

Don’t let yourself say “that’s not me.”

Know that it shouldn’t be anyone.

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

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About William Flautt 11 Articles
William Flautt is a staff Opinions columnist for The Heights. He is in the Class of 2015 in A&S finishing an economics and hispanic studies double major with a physics minor and regrets not knowing about linguistics his freshman year. He began writing for the The Heights in September 2014. He also enjoys puns, soccer, sweet tea, and witty banter.