5 Things #BlackLivesMatter Taught Me, A White Person

Okay, deep breath. It’s about to get real.

You might’ve noticed that I was muted this past week on my social media pages. I did this to show solidarity with the black community, and to observe and listen to what was going on in the world.

The purpose of being “muted” was to amplify melanated voices. This meant sharing black voices. Not the usual white voices we hear from a lot. This included muting my own white voice. So, I obliged by sharing black stories and black influencers on my pages instead of sharing my “usual” content.

During my week of silence and observation, I learned a lot. I feel like it’s a duty of mine (as someone with a platform) to speak to my white community who might still be confused or need help understanding what’s going on right now, and why what’s being said is being said. Here’s just a little bit of what I noticed.

  1. #BlackLivesMatter does not mean what I thought it meant: This was a hard one for me to grasp at first, but I can accept that the way we’re using language in this instance is changing. Black Lives Matter is not a movement that suggests my life as a white person is any less valuable. When we say #BlackLivesMatter, it doesn’t mean that any race is superior to another. It just means the black community wants recognition, and assistance from those with privilege in a system that’s stacked against them. Period.
  2. I do have “privilege” and that’s okay: Let me be real; I freaked out at this one. At first, I asked, “how can a middle-class girl from blue-collar Pittsburgh who barely could afford her college education, saw her parents fight to keep groceries in the fridge in the midst of a dying steel industry, and currently sits in debt from trying to survive in our society be someone of privilege?” Well, here’s how: I need to firstly know that I don’t need to feel guilty for being born a white person of Italian ancestry – I just need to recognize that my skin color didn’t make my life more difficult, and that I have the power to speak out against racist behavior when I see it. The word “privilege” does not mean what I think it means, and the way we’re using that word is changing. “White privilege” does not make you evil. It means you have a responsibility. That’s it.
  3. Our policing needs to change: It’s not my story to tell because these events didn’t happen to me, but I’ll just state that I’ve seen serious instances of injustices and profiling committed by police officers and TSA agents. I think it’s a little ridiculous that some of things happened to people I love purely because they’re men… not me, a small white girl. They automatically thought the man in this instance was more of a threat first, because of his size, so they elected to neutralize him with words and physical force immediately. The way our police and “security” forces operate has to change. New and different types of training have got to be implemented now.
  4. Protesting isn’t the only way to help: Doing your own research as a white person helps too. You can also donate to many wonderful organizations and people that fight systemic racism, and sign petitions asking for change that our government has to acknowledge. Speaking of government, for the love of god… VOTE this year. Vote out anyone who encourages and makes a platform based on racism. Period. Perhaps most important of all, is putting a stop to racism when we see it in our daily life. Don’t laugh at that racist joke a co-worker made. Explain that you won’t tolerate it. Talk to our youth about how to be better.
  5. I need more POC content on my screens: I scrolled through who I followed on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and oooohhhh boy did I need to make some changes. Though this wasn’t a conscious decision (and I’m sure the algorithm played into this too), there was a problem when it came to who I followed… and I needed to acknowledge it. I wasn’t following enough black, latino, asian, or biracial people. I was only following the “famous” ones I knew. I wasn’t following everyday POC. So, I made sure to do that. I’m looking forward to seeing what these creators make! In the Midwest, it’s a little harder to come by some of these communities in our daily life (though this is changing), but I don’t have an excuse for not interacting with them online.

It’s going to be my personal goal to use Val In Vogue as a way to regularly highlight a variety of voices. Sure, this is “my” blog and you’ll still see pics of me since I share outfits and talk fashion, but other people are doing amazing things in our country (and local community) when it comes to fashion, mental health, and music too – and I want to acknowledge that.

I hope you’ll stay with me, and bear with me as I learn and grow. We can change things, together. Now is as good a time as any to start.