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To my fellow white friends, confused by rioting

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to digest the Baltimore riots, the recent riots before them, and the political and social atmosphere that built them all.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking “I don’t understand” and trying to understand in spite of myself.

But that’s just it. I don’t understand. I won’t understand. I will never, ever understand what it means to be a person of color in the United States. I will never be a victim of institutionalized racism. When I do something wrong, people don’t assume the worst. I’m a white female. I have the privilege of getting the benefit of the doubt when I make mistakes.

The Frustration-Aggression Theory argues that frustration, when it cannot be displaced, leads to aggression. Without a means to deal with it, the aggression can turn to violence. Against people, against objects, against any conquerable target.

  • A woman constantly mistreated at the only job she can find in her town might go home and hit her child when he starts to cry.
  • A group of people oppressed by the institutions built to protect them, unable to see a way out from under the struggle, might start to riot.

This is about Freddie Gray and it’s bigger than Freddie Gray. This is a class problem. This is a race problem. This is our problem and we need to talk about it. No matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel.

So just consider, white friends, while you’re wondering why people are burning cars and looting stores, that it’s okay not to understand. It’s okay to admit that you don’t understand. Because you really don’t.

But it’s not okay to be silent. It’s not okay to take a back seat when people of color in this country have been so broken by oppression that they are reduced to acts of violence and anger. It’s not just one person. It’s entire communities. Communities that are hurting. Communities that need hope. Communities that deserve change.

Stand up and make a difference. Fight for justice and for equality. Challenge your country to be better.

You have the privilege to be silent, but that doesn’t mean you should be.

White silence = white consent.



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