For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been really busy working hard to meet two major illustration deadlines. I often have NPR on while I’m working, and the contrast between what has filled my days and what has filled the news has been striking.
On July 8th, the day after 5 police officers were shot and killed in Dallas, I posted that morning’s illustration on Instagram. I’m posting the illustration here to demonstrate how utterly disconnected my work was from the news I was listening to.
I wrote this on my post: So much anguish and anger painfully on display right now. When it feels overwhelming, I am insanely grateful that my work is so extraordinarily simple: just make art.
My feelings were very jumbled that day. I was grateful for my work (in spite of, and maybe because of, its smallness compared to the news), but I also felt fearful, sad, and angry, which is exactly how I felt listening to the news on the days when Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot and killed.
Eventually, I turned off the radio, and that’s when it hit me. My ability to turn off the radio, to tune out the news and the scary state of race relations in this country is maybe the best and simplest example of my own undeniable white privilege. I can stop thinking about race if I choose to. I can “just make art.”
I haven’t written on this topic here on my blog, and I’ve said very little out on social media, mostly just reposting the words of others who I feel are more qualified or more eloquent than I am. But my silence isn’t helpful and, in fact, it’s harmful. If white people who care deeply about this are too afraid to speak up – for fear of making others uncomfortable, or saying the wrong thing, or just because they don’t know what they can do or what they should say – then nothing will change. I believe that fighting racism is our responsibility.
So here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m going to speak up. I’m going to explain however many times I need to that saying Black Lives Matter does not mean only black lives matter; it means black lives matter too, which is why #alllivesmatter is a completely inappropriate response to #blacklivesmatter. (Here’s a great explanation.) I’m going to acknowledge my privilege and not be defensive. I’m going to educate myself. (Here’s an excellent collection of resources, and here’s another.) I’m going to support anti-racism organizations, and listen intently to what people of color have to say. (Here’s an honest, heartbreaking post about what it means to be black in America.)
And I’m going to love, harder than ever.
As if our lives depend on it.
Because, of course, they do.