WORDS by Davon White

(L to R) Bob Zellner, Bernard Lafayette, Kate Lafayette, Davon White

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve struggled with how America has shown up in response to racial injustice and police brutality.

I’ve tried to process and reflect internally, but in doing so, I have noticed myself bottling up more than I can handle. It is my hope that my recent realizations as a 23 year-old Black professional will shine some light for many of us.

After watching the video which nationally showcased the death of Ermias Asghedom as prime-time news, I knew I could no longer stomach watching death senselessly occur – especially the deaths of my fellow brothers, sisters, and heroes.

I’ll speak for myself when I say that as a Black man, I possess a sort of generational trauma that “takes me back” every time I HEAR of such videos. I don’t need to watch footage of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant… and the many others to be overwhelmed with a sense of mourning.

Despite the diaspora, we are still very much connected to one another. I have no choice but to put myself in their shoes.

Their spilled blood felt like my very own. Leaving me feeling physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually drained.

Their last breaths also escaped from my own chest, leaving me speechless and unable to answer questions like: “Are you alright? How are you doing?”

Yet, the world carries on and I am expected to be the strong voice that delivers a message of hope and promise to the generations following behind me – when in reality, I have not yet escaped the possibility of my own sudden death at the hands of those meant to protect… at the hands of my own brothers filled with rage and pain… at the hands of my own beloved community…

As I get older, I doubt this daunting reality will just dissipate into thin air. For Black people in this country, death has always been but a moment away. Over the last 400 years, we have had only glimpses of what it means to thrive and the costs of existing in “survival mode” in 2020 are just too expensive.

As I scroll through my timelines and see news of peaceful protests turning into riots, I am conflicted.

In one sense, there is a feeling of relief that people are making their voices heard. Allies are speaking up and Black communities hitting the streets to protest aren’t alone this time around. Major companies and politicians are being forced to respond and racial injustice is at the center of America’s attention!

And yet, I will not believe change is occurring until I see results. A statement that portrays your company as one that “stands with the people” is not enough. Simply participating in protests and physically standing with the people who are suffering is not enough. Sending messages to your Black colleagues to “check-in on them” during social unrest due to racial violence – but not any other time – is not enough, feels fake, and further contributes to the exhaustion we carry daily.

The demands to end “White Silence” are a start, but forcing someone to speak under pressure doesn’t mean there has been a change in their values. Once the silence is broken, have conversations that are revolutionary. The systems won’t change until the values of the people change first.

Until there is a change in how America talks about and addresses its long history of racial violence…

Until we can raise our youth without instilling our own fears of death into them which have been passed down for generations…

Until what is “not enough” for me is “not enough” for those who possess influential power in this country…

I will always be conflicted. We will always be conflicted.

I still carry hope that one day, the people of this country will be able to see each other for who we are, without hate and intolerance…

But until then…

Davon White is the Scholar Engagement Coordinator at R. Merle Palmer Minority Scholarship Foundation in his hometown of Tacoma, Washington. Davon is also a Pilgrimage alumni and valued member of our community. This piece was originally featured in the eTc Tacoma blog.