On December 2nd, 2014, I called my boss at Ruby Tuesday’s and told him I had been sexually assaulted by a member of the staff. He promised me that someone from corporate would call me as I cried, my hand tightly wound in that of my best friend’s, and he wished me luck. Seven months later, I called corporate myself.
I spoke to a woman named Chris and she brought about one of the most hurtful moments I had ever experienced. I explained who I was, how I was assaulted, everything – and all she would say was that it was not the company’s fault. Nearing tears, I asked her why she hadn’t called me the week of the assault and Chris said, “Someone should’ve been in touch. I would’ve called, but I forgot.”
She forgot one of the most terrible moments of my life, something that continues to haunt me to this day. I asked her how that luxury felt, having the space to drop someone’s trauma at the door, and she had no answer. How could she?
I was reminded of that feeling this past week. I was discussing the Black Lives Matter movement, arguing with people who refuse to acknowledge the systematic oppression that faces black Americans, and all the sudden I wanted to stop. For a second, I wanted to forget. It made me nauseous and anxious and I wanted a reprieve.
All at once, I felt disgusted by myself. I had the luxury of forgetting and I knew how much easier it would be. For a moment, I wanted it. But how could I?
I heard Chris’ harsh voice grating in my ear, saying she forgot to call, and I wanted to cry. I couldn’t be that person. I can’t be a useful comrade to this movement without paying this price – a price that, as a white woman, is so much less costly than that of the black community. If I was less of a person, I could drop their struggles at the door and refuse to speak, refuse to use my privilege to act, refuse and refuse and refuse.
But I would hate myself for being a passive participant. I would hate myself for standing by while others were in pain. I can’t do it.
Here’s what I’m reading in the hopes that I’ll be a more useful member of the movement. I highly suggest that white people read along with me. There’s so much work to do.
If we do not help make a difference, we are a part of the problem.