Sherry, I am not white.
Allene Swienckowski

Allene, I did not assume you are white, I was merely noting that I’ve typically had this debate only with other white people which is interesting in and of itself. Nor is Ezinne all that young or inexperienced; in fact, having read the majority of her stuff on Medium for quite awhile now, I would say that she is very entitled to her opinions.

Your color does not change my views as stated. While I share your concerns about the effect of our words and don’t think we should speak lightly, I don’t agree with the cause and effect, particularly in the cases you cite. When a person chooses to hurt or kill another (barring mental issues), it is some complicated mix of anger and hate and feelings of superiority or, conversely, inferiority, and a lack of control. Each of the individuals committing these acts has had many years of input from society about violence being wrong, but chose to do it anyway. They are first and foremost responsible for their decisions, not the author of something they read.

If, however, we wanted to indict others, I would start with any of their family and friends who may have directly influenced their feelings of unfounded hate based on a simple demographic or led them to believe that violence is an acceptable response. Beyond that, I decry anyone like the Trumps of the world who would suggest that anyone is less worthy than anyone else and therefore open to being abused.

Someone I would not blame? Those who are oppressed and speak out against their oppressors! Yes, Ezinne is often angry, but she is entitled to be angry and to speak out against those who do her (and/or her race) wrong. (I have also spoken out on some of these subjects, as oppression demeans all of us.) Certainly someone could cite our words as influences, but if speaking out about what is right is a problem for them, the problem is theirs and not ours.

Beyond that, think of the alternative. Should we just shut up and accept being wronged, or not call out wrong when we see it? If that were the case, we’d still have legally sanctioned slavery! As it is, even with voices like Ezinne’s too many whites think that the Civil Rights Movement fixed everything.

I do think — and I hope you’d agree? — that love and positivity are the better approach when they can be utilized effectively. What I’ve taught my children is that we are all worthy and no one is better than anyone else based simply on how we’re wrapped. But unfortunately, those tactics don’t work on everyone.

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