Black and Brown communities have long been plagued by the same oppressive tactics of disenfranchisement, violence, and criminalization of their identities. We live side by side, going to the same schools, going to the same grocery store, working the same jobs. Our struggles are similar and yet often we are bystanders rather than active in solidarity. This is not accidental, historically and culturally carrying over to the present day; communities of color have been divided and pitted against each other as a means of control.
Growing up Latinx, there are subtle and explicit ways in which I was socialized to be anti-black. Whether it was family members that complained that their Black coworkers weren’t pulling their weight or even in dating the phrase “mejorar la Raza” literally means make the race better by marrying whiter. Not to mention external forces in mainstream media that bombard the psyche with stereotypes.
Living and growing up side by side with Black people in a diverse community like Sacramento, meant that I have always had friends that were Black for as long as I could remember. And its easy when you have friends that are Black to feel a sense of exemption from the racism that swirls around us. Yet the real test of our friendships, of our values, of our love of people is where we stand when times get tough; our capacity to empathize and show up for each other.
Our reactions to the live action anti-blackness we witness tell the truth. When there is police brutality, do we shrug our shoulders and ask why they had x in their hand? Do we take to the streets and console crying mothers who will never again see their sons? When a coworker get passed over for a promotion or is put down in a meeting, do I stick my neck out for them or stay silent to avoid rocking the boat?
There are risks to solidarity, of being seen as a trouble maker, perceived loss of status and or being called overly sensitive. In a systemic racism, there are rewards for compliance, to being a bystander, to turning a blind eye, to mimic and be in proximity to whiteness. In essence to be a token, is to subscribe to the ideologies of whiteness, even to the detriment of communities of color. And often non-black people of color choose to be a bystander out of sheer survival. This how systemic racism continues to thrive as an environment in which we ignore history and its implications that play out in the day to day in the lives of Black & Brown people.
We can do better, I can do better. We do not have to resign ourselves to apathy but rather we can choose to live out a life that values others enough to take on their struggles as our own. While I may never know what its like to walk this earth as Black person, I can hold space for the pain, the anger, and show up for people. Because today its for you, tomorrow for me.