A while back, I heard Dr. Brian Williams give a talk on his experiences with racism. He is a trauma surgeon in Dallas, Texas and he worked on the 6 police officers who were shot by a sniper.
He is also a black man, a husband and father, an ex-marine and a highly skilled surgeon. In his anger, pain and grief he shares his humanity.
He began his story with painful experiences of racial discrimination in childhood. He called the incidences micro-aggressions, micro-assaults and invalidation. He described his internalized sense of inferiority and the way he kept his anger buried to function. . . he assimilated. He gave over his dignity and self worth to gain place and get by.
Until the day of the shootings, when something gave way inside. The pain could no longer be contained. Maybe it was the loss of life, or telling the families that they lost their husband, son, father, brother. Maybe it was the respect by which he was treated as a doctor contrasted with the fear he felt walking the streets as a black man. Perhaps it was the police killings of black men earlier that week. Perhaps it was the accumulation of pain.
This day ended his silence.
Now, on stage, he asks, “What keeps you silent?”
It is not enough to be a person of goodwill. We must speak in open and honest discussions about discrimination, racism, hate and violence. We must look inside for our own areas of prejudice and stereotyping, our own labels and devaluation of “other”. Not with judgement and recrimination, but with honesty and a willingness to work toward change.
It is time to tell our stories of oppression. It is time to heal our blindness, our deafness, our silence. It is time to open the vault of privilege as well as discrimination. It is time to understand our connection to one another and it is time to come together for justice…deep, abiding justice.