I realized this a while ago, but it's not exactly something you advertise. It's ugly, and painfully real. I am part of the problem of racism in America.

I think it's important to name our sins, to point out the parts of us that are not holy, that deserve to be cast out. Racism is one of those evils that for some reason, our society is notoriously bad at naming. Whether it's police brutality, prison over-population, or a blatant massacre, we still wonder, "Couldn't there be some other explanation?" We don't want to name it. It's too ugly, a little too real.

It needs to be named, though, so we can get to the business of eliminating it. I'm starting by naming it where I see it in me. I may not be racist, but I am part of the problem. I perpetuate racism most blatantly by not speaking up when I hear people deny the challenges of being a racial minority in America.

When I keep my mouth shut when someone says Freddie Gray wouldn't be dead if he hadn't done anything wrong

When I don't question the assumptions underlying a suggestion that a woman only started dating a black man to upset her parents

When I fail to articulate that poverty is more frequently a result of structural inequality than laziness when it comes up in conversation

When I didn't say anything, but I should have.

For each of these and more, I can recall a specific conversation. Every time, it's with with people I love and respect. The thing is, it's easy for me to talk to strangers on the internet about racism. It's easy to call out my peers when they make stupid jokes. It's easy to retweet stuff about trending topics. It's even easy to post blogs. But it's hard to call out adults I know and respect when their comments cross the line. I'm trying to work on it, but the work (on myself) is far from over. Each time, I question whether it's worth the effort, whether it's worth potentially damaging a relationship. Sometimes, with some people, it feels safer to just keep my mouth shut.

It's time to speak up. People are dying. Not all white people are murderers, but the general population's attitudes and the resulting comments they make form the foundation of our culture. Those little comments here and there just keep adding up. Casual racism is still so normal that we have a hard time labeling it as such, whether we're discussing current events or our own biases. What we can't label, we can't fix. Racism is real, and it's everywhere-- not just out there, but here, close to home. Our society should be past this, but we're not. Naming it where it appears close to home will allow us to chip away at its foundations. If we do that, we may eventually live up to the title 'land of the free, home of the brave.' As long as we fail to recognize our complicity in racial violence, our fellow citizens are still not free, and we're not very brave.


Read the full story of the June 17 shooting in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church killing 9

Get some perspective from black authors:
The Only Logical Conclusion or This is what it's like by Austin Channing
RE: Charleston: Why I want us all to stop praying for a while by Crystal S. Lewis
Black Lives - and Churches - Matter by Khaled A Beydoun