I’m a White Woman, And I’m Sorry For Not Speaking Up

As a Midwestern white woman, how do I speak up?

I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to be proper and diplomatic right now. I don’t really know my place.

As someone who’s had very little exposure to blatant racism outside of social media and the news, what do I say?

I struggle to find my voice.

How loudly do I speak? And how often? How many words do I use? Where do I put the inflection and the emotion? What shouldn’t I say? Does my voice even matter?

For these reasons, I’ve always kept my mouth shut. Firmly shut. Admittedly, I’ve been afraid of messing up, or offending someone, the wrong someone. Outing myself as some uneducated, ill-informed, unwelcome girl.

But I feel things.

I feel pain for a community I only know from the outside. I feel sadness and anger and disgust. And I even tell myself that feeling these pains feels wrong, like I’m somehow ineligible for grief. Grief that I see as someone else’s.

Because the rawest truth of it is, what on earth could I say that would make a difference? What words do I have that can make up for what happened? Part of me feels guilty for their crimes. Guilty by omission and guilty by way of silence.

Guilty by association because of the color of my skin.

I’m a White Woman, And I’m Sorry For Not Speaking Up

And what’s the point?

Should I really be this worried about broadcasting my opinion on social media? Does anyone else care what I have to say? It’s just Facebook. I should just stay in my lane, right?

Even writing this I feel so much white privilege in my words, as if to say, “Look at me, look at me. Feel bad for ME and the awkward cultural ambiguity I’m suffering from.” 

That couldn’t be farther from the point.

My aim is not only to stand on a platform as tall and as proudly as I can, but to do so the right way, and to seek answers. To be taught. To learn how to wield my voice and how to assert my opinion properly. 

I know this is so much bigger than me. No matter the reservations I have about speaking my mind and my heart. No matter how meek and meager my voice may be, these things need to be said. Now.

Because no matter the color of my skin or my circumstance, no matter how many degrees of separation I am away from the situation, every little bit helps.

Every outcry. Every outrage. To negate all the onlookers and bystanders. To smother the words of the naysayers and rally against the establishment. To rule out any shadow of a doubt.

Now is the time to join the chain and become a link in something greater than all of us.

I guess what it all boils down to is I want to tell the world that I’m sorry, that I’m sad, and that I’m not okay with what’s happening. I want to be able to tell my children that I didn’t remain voiceless. I stood up and stood for something even though I was scared and uneasy.

Let me say I’m sorry. Here’s my resounding apology for not standing up earlier, for not fully understanding my position and my role in all of this. For not making my voice heard until now.

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Jess is a born and raised Iowan who has lived in Vinton for the past 10 years. She has two children, 10-year-old Landon and 4-year-old Fynnlee. Jess attended Kirkwood and UNI and now operates an in-home daycare. She considers herself an independent author and has self-published a few eBooks. She enjoys attending Landon’s sporting events, spending time with her family, as well as writing and reading in her free time.