I haven't said much about the recent shootings of two black men by police other than commenting on other people's posts or reacting to them with the convenient yet certainly not adequate emoji options Facebook provides. Mostly, this has been because there's already a flood of people who are more informed about these stories and the grimly numerous previous ones and who are more willing to post their opinions online. I didn't feel like anything I had to say would add to the conversation, despite having the urge to say something, anything.
I didn’t want to create noise in a space that needed music.
And then, today, when I was driving to run an errand, I suddenly became acutely aware of my surroundings. There was a woman driving her black SUV in front of me with an LSU Alumni sticker common of many cars in Baton Rouge who I nearly ran into because her left taillight had burned out.
Think about that for a minute.
She is able to blithely go about her day without worrying about her taillight being burned out. She might be at risk of being pulled over (though I doubt it) without fearing that she’ll be shot and killed during a routine stop for a traffic violation while her significant other records it and a four-year-old in the back witnesses the entire thing.
Even though she is, technically, in violation of the law. Even though she didn’t use her blinker when switching lanes. Even though she was in the middle of her turn when the light had already become red. Even though she seemed to be reading her phone screen at one point while I was driving behind her. Even though, because Louisiana is a concealed-carry state, she could feasibly have a gun somewhere in the car legally that might make any cop pulling her over a little nervous.
Why doesn’t she have to worry about this? Why is she most likely oblivious to any of these violations that are the last thing to come into her mind as being an issue today?
Because she’s white.
And then I knew I had to say something, even if it doesn’t further the conversation.
Because it keeps the conversation present.
Because, even if what I’m saying is noise, it’ll help make the noise louder until it crescendos and people in power actually do something to prevent these deaths from happening anymore.
Because my son goes to a daycare down the street from where Alton Sterling died and I don’t want him to grow up in a world where his black friends and teachers are afraid of going to school or work simply because of the color of their skin.
Because I don’t want to find out one day that one of my black students has been killed during a routine stop for a traffic violation.
Because I fear for my black friends’ lives.
Because I don’t have a lot of power in this world other than my vote and my ability to use words effectively and to teach others to do the same.
Because, maybe, if more white people start saying something, if more white people become noisy about this, maybe, just maybe, black lives won’t have to fight to just matter.
Maybe black lives will just be able to live.