Breaking My Silence: An Open Letter to White Allies of #BlackLivesMatter

In the coming weeks, The Clerk will be publishing commentary from the Haverford community in response to the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. If you would like to contribute to this series, please email our Editor-in-Chief Hannah Cregan Zigler at hzigler@haverford.edu.

Dear White Allies,

Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Do those names mean anything to you? If they really do, then have you done any of the following:

1. Have you called or texted any of your black friends to see if they are okay?
2. Have you been protesting, and speaking out?
3. Have you been doing anything with your privilege?

The past few days have arguably some of the most difficult for me, as a black man on an elite predominantly white liberal arts campus, to process. I have friends that actively question if simple daily tasks for most people are safe. Driving a car? Walking down the street? Newsflash: For people of color? Those were always activities that put them, “at-risk”.

During the day, I work in the Haverford Admissions Office. I meet plenty of wonderful prospective students. They are intelligent, driven, charismatic, and collectively some of the best students leaving high school around the country. I sit with parents, and we have conversations ranging from the weather, other colleges, to their child’s academic achievements. But these dialogues can often drift into the political, speaking broadly about the presidential election, or narrowly as the effect of the Affordable Care Act on small businesses and economic productivity. Even with students coming from the epicenter of these national tragedies like Baton Rouge, there is no talk, none, of what is really going on in my world. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. It’s a privilege, in short, to not even acknowledge my concerns, not to say their names to my face.

In the evening, I serve as an RA for the Chesick Scholars Program. I get to live with some of the most incredible incoming students that Haverford has to offer. The program is targeted toward high achieving students coming from low-income backgrounds and other historically marginalized groups (such as first generation, Black and LatinX students, etc.). Yet with the weight of these murders on my mind, it’s hard to stay present. There are several Black and Brown young men that I live with, who look to me as a mentor figure. But I haven’t been able to talk about what’s going on. I don’t have the words. It feels like I’m desperately trying to speak out, but with nothing of assurance, of comfort, to say. It feels like I am failing them.

These past few days!! Despite being in rooms full of people, I felt confined, alone with my thoughts. Following work, I would rush to my room. Withdraw. I had to take myself off of social media to avoid seeing the display and fetishizing of the killing of Black and Brown bodies, to not see yet another new angle, a new recording of their deaths. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. It is constantly in my face. CNN, BBC, constantly on replay. Over and over again. It’s sensory overload, and I’ve had enough.

My silence ends today.

I got a phone call from one of my friends at work today during her lunch break. She was crying. It was heartbreaking. She was upset beyond words. In the past week, she has participated in three protests, attended City Hall meetings, and handed out flyers raising awareness around diversity. Despite the support her Facebook events and posts have garnered, none of her supposed allies have shown at these events. For people of color like myself, the burden has always been on us to protest, to educate, and simply exist, resisting against systems of oppression. But the burden is not just on us.

It’s on you too.

So if you ask if me if I am okay? And how my day is going? Be prepared to hear the truth. I’m not okay. I’m tired. I’m tired of being tired. And if those names, killed at the hands of a war waged on Black and Brown bodies, mean anything to you–if you have any meaningful relationship with any person of color—then please use your privilege, stand in solidarity, and take action!

Everyone has a platform.“Liking” and “sharing” posts on Facebook is nice. It’s not enough.

With trust, concern, and respect,

Maurice Rippel

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2 Responses

  1. Rebecca Laureanna Fisher says:

    Thank you for sharing Maurice! You’re amazing!!

  2. Raisa Williams says:

    Like you, I am struggling to find a way to speak about the issue with enough passion to make an impact, but without all the anger and disappointment I feel. “Taking action”, in my book, needs to go well beyond public protests and talk. Everyone must combat racism at every level on a daily basis. No matter how trivial and unintended. This, I feel, should be our social justice commitment.

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