Words by Emily Bentley
Photo by Garrett Smith
America, we must talk.
I am writing this from the voice of someone who is tired.
My friends and I got into our beat up cars with no AC and met today because we do not know what our next steps need to be, only that we must make them.
This weekend in Virginia, a rally spilled into the streets that was so hateful and so emboldened that people died.
I have always looked at history as a chance for hope. The mistakes we made then do not have to be our future. However, I am deeply discouraged. In the past, racists would wear a mask. They would commit acts of terror in the night. Make no mistake, they have always been cowards; however, something is leading them to believe that they do not need to be afraid. This weekend they were maskless, they were many, and they murdered. This weekend a black man was nearly beaten to death, and while his very life was almost taken from him he heard the words screamed again and again
What poison have we been drinking America? Who poisoned the water and then
let it run like this?
My mother’s whole side of the family is Jewish. When I was a child and we
learned about the Holocaust, I remember not understanding. What burns in a human being’s body so horrifically that they can murder a child for their race?
I remember meeting a holocaust survivor when I was six years old. The skin on her arm was like tissue paper and she moved slowly. I remember wondering how someone so frail could have survived Nazi Germany, but she did,
and we will as well.
I need you to know I am writing this from the perspective of someone who believes deeply in human beings.
In fact, I have put all my faith in this. I would not be an activist if I believed we were without hope. Humans are capable of such brutality, but we are capable also of so much softness.
When I volunteered in Cambodia, I met a woman who had been raped so brutally that her doctor said when he examined her it reminded him of
She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and in the home we all stayed in I could hear her softly humming Disney songs to her child.
What I am trying to say is, if given the chance, human beings are capable of such raw love that rape, sorrow and the ugliest pits of our hearts can be undone and born again. However, this does not happen accidentally. This takes conscious movement. It takes resistance to all that we know. It takes a courage that wakes up in the middle of the night and says the morning will come and when it does we must be ready to fight.
Make no mistake; we are at war right now.
Our very president, when he was told during the election season that the leader of the KKK endorsed him, made no public statement against him. We cannot expect anything from the leadership at White House.
We can expect great things from grassroots movements. It is our time and our responsibility to rage against this great night. Fellow white people, our silence is our complicity. I urge you now more than ever to open up your mouths and let the truth spill out. It is our job more than anyone’s to listen to people of color, support people of color, and protect them. My heart hurts in a way that I do not know how to put into words. There is something deep and ugly that is starting to unearth itself in America again. We cannot let it come gently around our necks. I am only twenty-four but I do know that this ugliness will never run out if we let it grow.
It will wrap its hands around all of us. Do not think you are an exception.
We must take this moment to celebrate blackness. Indeed it has contributed so much to America, that in order to deny it you would have to be blind. Blackness is rich, beautiful, powerful, and a vital pulsing part of America. I do not want these cowards to be able to twist the narrative so that everything that we saw happen in Virginia becomes about them. It should be about the people who died,
the people who survived,
the people who forged human chains,
the people who said I will not go silently into the night.
I would remind you when that Anne Frank did not have to die; her family applied for asylum in the US and their visas were denied.
May we all work towards a future that does not make America the America of the past, but rather an America that is great because we have welcomed the refugee, we have drowned out the Nazi,
we have waken to a great morning where mothers are able to let their children leave their homes in good faith that they will come back to them alive and well that evening.
My heart hurts, America. But I have been through enough pain to know that often, the sting is a call to action.