I’m sitting here reading an article over and over about a young Black woman who was attacked by white men in Madison. She was doused with lighter fluid and then set on fire. Let that sink in for a moment.
She was set on fire for no other reason than being black. This was a hate crime, plain and simple. It was attempted murder. Don’t think for a moment that this was for any other reason than her being black. It was hate! Hate for being who she is, a beautiful Black woman, and I am enraged.
I sit here, sipping my coffee, crying my eyes out because I cannot get the faces of my Black students in BSU out of my head. I think about all the Black students that I have known and many who I still keep in touch with, and I am breaking down, tears streaming from fear that this could happen to them. I am an emotional person, and often my first emotion is anger when I see injustice. This is more than injustice, it’s hate, beyond hate. When I think of my kids, yes they are all my kids, I want to protect them by any means necessary. I have had enough.
So when my wife tried to ask me a question this morning, I could hardly get the words out and I just lowered my head and cried. I cried for this person who had to face something so horrible because she is black.
What concerns me just as much are the racist comments that people are making with this article, this hate crime, that will now traumatize this young person for the rest of her life. She already has to endure a world that is not fair for her and now she has to endure this hateful act and the comments that are attached to this article. If you think for one moment this will not cause a lifetime full of trauma, just look at her burnt face.
Most every hate crime that has ever happened toward Black or Brown people have been by the hands of white men. Every hate crime toward LGBTQ has been by white men. As a white man I am disgusted. My disgust is not good enough. As a white man, I am standing up with my Black brothers and sisters, my brown brothers and sisters, and LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I am standing up for my students, my Latinx school daughter, and all their families. It’s not enough for me to be silent. To watch in the background. I have had enough. I fear for my kids, I fear for friends, and I fear for all of us. This is not the world I want to live in. White men, we can do better. We have a responsibility to speak up and stop these actions because it is us, white men that are causing so much of the pain that is happening.
Think for a moment, with all of the empathy that filters through your soul, and think about if this was your daughter getting sprayed with lighter fluid, set on fire, called racial slurs, and someone trying to kill her because of the color of her skin. Our privilege as white people, especially white men, is that we can show empathy, we can be enraged, and then we can go on being white people and never experience a hate crime because of the color of our skin. If this were my daughter, or my nieces, sisters, or students, I’m not sure where my head would be. It would take all my strength not to use my strength, if that makes sense.
Today, I sit with my thoughts. I sit with tears, and I sit with rage. I believe my BSU students wonder sometimes why I send them group emails and random, individual emails, or messages on social media. It’s because I stay awake, worried about them, their physical and mental health. I love them and that’s why this article, this time that we are in, is causing so much internal pain. We can do better. I have to demand that from myself and I demand it from white people. Use your voice. Use your compassion to make this a world where we are all safe and can live without fear and have dignity. Peace!