As an Indian teenager living in the U.S, I know that it is not my place to speak on behalf of black people and their experiences with police brutality and other forms of oppression. The type of racism that I face as a brown girl is not the same as what black people undergo on a daily basis, and I keep this in mind as I convey my message. What I would like to say, however, is that there are some aspects of it that are common to all people of color, proving just how complex and deep-rooted this issue is.
I go to a school in a rich, white suburb, but this is not to say that people of color are nonexistent at my school. If I am being honest, I don’t actually feel out of place there. On most days, I am not reminded that I am a minority girl at a white school, and my daily frustrations don’t usually stem from racial mistreatment. But occasionally, I am reminded that I am a minority girl at a white school. Occasionally, my frustrations do stem from racial mistreatment. Yes, occasionally. But it still happens, and that is enough reason to show that our society has problems that need to be fixed.
What white people will never understand is the complexity of being a person of color. Every experience we have, every action we take, and every word we say, can be interpreted in a million different ways.
If a white girl chooses not to talk to me, I can’t tell if she’s simply having a bad day or if she is genuinely being racist towards me. Or what if I am the problem, and she doesn’t want to talk to me because I am not a nice person?
If a white teacher picks on me constantly, I don’t know whether or not to blame it on his personality, because there is also a chance that he is a racist. There is also a chance, however, that I am a bad student, and his behavior is only a reflection of mine.
If a white boy laughs when I raise my hand in class, I don’t know if he is being stereotypical and assuming that I am a brown try-hard, or if he simply remembers a funny joke from forever ago and coincidentally laughs at the same time that I raise my hand. But maybe he laughs because I am awkward, regardless of my skin color.
I hope you understand now why “Not all cops-” and “Not all white people-” is irrelevant to the conversation we must have. If people of color are made conscious of their skin in front of all white people, racist or not, then it is fair to call out all white people and all cops.
With this being said, self-reflection is quite literally the first step you should take, regardless of whether you sign a petition or attend a protest. It doesn't matter if you have never mistreated someone due to their skin color, because the problem that your ancestors created still affects people of color, and if it isn’t your responsibility to fix that, then whose is it?
It is your job to ensure that from now on, people of color are not conscious of their skin colors at all times. It is your job to ensure that from now on, people of color can finally just be referred to as people.