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Response to Buffalo, NY Shooting

Often we struggle to process shootings like Buffalo; especially when they are racially motivated and we don’t share the same race as the people who were targeted. But we need to seek to understand as best we can what it feels like and builds our skills to talk about it with others. Cultures of Dignity’s Dystanie Douglas-Burger shares her reaction.

I could make a post breaking down the injustices that are making headlines right now, but I’m not. Instead, I’m going to inform and remind all of you how this trendy headline is a literal haunting everyday reality when you look like me, and how I, your dear “fearless” friend, live in a modern-day horror film. Except this one isn’t fiction.

Every morning I wake up, I’m black.

And every day I wake up, a black man is beside me. I hold him tight, real tight because he’s strong.

And every time we walk out the doors of our house (well, even inside the house…i.e Bothem Jean, Atianna Jefferson) we have a target on us.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my blackness. I love the culture, the connections, the jokes, the power, and the strength we all have living within this black skin.

But just because I love it, doesn’t mean I chose the life or the fear that comes with it.

THUG. ATTITUDE. HATEFUL. RUDE. SCARY. GHETTO. CONFRONTATIONAL. AGGRESSIVE.

All negative connotations and assumptions that are automatically tied to me just because of the color of my skin. You may say, “Everyone’s not like that though….” or, “Everyone doesn’t think that way..”

You’re absolutely right. Not everyone does, but there is more than one person that does. Actually, there are a lot of people who are “like that,” and think “that way.”

Question: If you knew that more than one person in this world was out to get you wouldn’t you be afraid?

Clarifying question: If you knew that ANYONE was out to get you, target you, dehumanize you, demean you, wouldn’t you be afraid?

So why do I have to be silent?

Why do I have to continue my everyday life in fear that I might not see the next day because there was even one person who was not a part of the “everyone’s not like that” club. That ONE person, who didn’t want me around, didn’t care about my life, murdered me in broad daylight, made me a hashtag…

I’m not going to be silent. I’m calling attention because what happened to the people involved in the Buffalo shooting, could’ve happened to me. Could happen to me. Can happen to me.

Question: Why are you silent? I’m talking to you, my non-black friends, colleagues, partners, and associates. The ones who claim to love me and support me. Why are you silent when I need you to speak up for me the most?

There is a target on my back and it is active at all times. Unfortunately, I can’t remove it, I wake up every morning still black.

No amount of accolades, no amount of education, no amount of hard work can ever remove the target from my back. So I need you to defend me, because you can freely do so, without the target on your back.

Acknowledge me as the person you love, and acknowledge my blackness, not only when it’s convenient or relevant because you saw something that reminded you of it, but acknowledge it because it is who I am.

I don’t have the luxury to privately think about how “sad” this is, I live it. Don’t privately support me and privately stand up for me in your head, because “It just gives me anxiety to even think about it.” Imagine how I feel…, the one who is actually at risk…you probably can’t because you never had to. To my allies: Use your voice even if it shakes.

You can pray for me, I appreciate that. I’m praying too, but faith without works is dead– James 2:17. 

Speak up, out loud, and support me because you love me and because unlike you, every morning I wake up, still black and still targeted. Scary.

“How can dignity inspire us to do small yet powerful acts that make my community safer?” 

Resources if you’re at a loss and don’t know what you can do:

Words to use if  you want to respond to this but don’t know what to say that isn’t harmful: “I am listening and I will take action.”

Please reach out to the Cultures of Dignity team with any questions or comments.

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