What LIES Between Us
Tracey McKee – October 15, 2021
Starting in 2014, national media outlets covered a series of disturbing shootings from cities across the nation. All of these shootings had one thing in common: unarmed black men killed at the hands of police officers. As a white, forty-something woman living in the suburbs, sadly these stories did not resonate with me at first. But they kept happening: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Akai Gurley, Alton Sterling, Freddie Gray, and Philando Castile. WHAT WAS HAPPENING?
Philando Castile was shot in July 2016, and at the pre-season opener for the San Fransisco 49ers a few weeks later, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the playing of the national anthem. When asked why he was taking a knee, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The backlash to his kneeling was formidable. Many were caught up in whether he should be allowed to kneel and missed considering WHY he was kneeling. I found Kaepernick’s actions compelling: This man willingly plunged himself into controversy, upending his life, to call attention to mistreatment and discrimination of fellow Americans. This wasn’t only about the the glaring string of shootings, Kaepernick’s protest indicated there was more going on that wasn’t as conspicuous. Something bigger was happening, and I realized I was so very unaware.
The media’s coverage of those terrible shootings and one man’s courage to take a knee in protest to them led me to participate in Brownicity’s: What Lies Between Us. I had no idea what to expect, but I felt like I was doing something positive and something tangible in the face of racism. I learned a lot I didn’t know – more importantly, I learned a lot that I was not even aware I didn’t know. The beauty of participating in the workshop was that I stepped outside of my day-to-day existence and considered others’ day-to-day existence. There is something very powerful in appreciating someone else’s story, history, and reality – we build respect, and respect is the beginning of healing. The act of learning about others is an affirming act of being part of a greater whole, and the knowledge we build makes us better equipped to make better choices for not just ourselves, but in consideration of others, too. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better, then when you know better, do better.” I am responsible for the choices I make and the ripples that trail behind them; I am glad I am making choices better informed and with greater respect and understanding.