My skin color speaks of a history of unforgivable wrongs, of oppression injected into the bone marrow of people who look like you, like my husband and children.
My skin color tells stories of slave owners, juries and judges who send young boys to prison for life, police officers who shoot, beat, and choke innocent men, women, and children to death, those who seek to ban entry and tear apart families, those shrouded in white robes and hoods, as if their skin itself weren’t white enough, those who erected internment camps, those in positions of authority who spend their lives, generation after generation, making it a priority to stifle equality and justice.
My skin color tells stories of those for whom the American Dream is a possibility, if not a given, and for whom this dream exists precisely because it doesn’t exist for people of color.
And, so I understand, in that incomplete way one understands a pain one hasn’t felt, that when I cross your path, stand before you, look into your eyes, I hold up a mirror that reflects centuries of your suffering.
I don’t seek to convince you that I am not those people, that I was born in a place too small, too far away to have any bearing on our shared homeland’s history, that I am different.
In America, I am a white woman. And we are in America.
I accept that I am a beneficiary of white privilege and an embodiment of the American Dream.
It pains me that these privileges and easily accessible dreams aren’t guaranteed to my family, my students, my friends.
It pains me that I can do nothing to right these vicious wrongs, except teach, write, and march in protest, always conscious of the white fist above my head.
I come to you in peace.
I stand before you in humility.
I extend my hand in sisterhood.
For, although this may not be easy to see, or know, or feel, or trust, I am your sister.
I love you. Because you are my daughter.
I stand with you. Because you are my students.
I walk with you. Because you are my niece, my mother- and sisters-in-law.
I mourn with you. Because you are my friends.
I celebrate you. Because you are women.
So, I come to you today to ask that you allow me to walk with you on the march for justice and equality, which you have been walking all your lives.
As we walk together, I will not claim to truly know oppression, and, with each step, will seek to understand, and atone for it.
I will not allow myself to pretend that the injustice my own people suffered, decades ago, in an isolated incident of colossal brutality, means that I know suffering or oppression myself.
I will not say anything or act in any way that suggests that America is just discovering fear and injustice, that we must fight because we are suddenly, for the first time, under attack. I am walking now because we should have always been walking together.
And so I am asking if you would please allow me to join your struggle for equality and justice, as I humbly follow your lead on this journey to set things right.