People of the World,
Annie and I have been praying for you. We hurt with you, your loss is our loss, and we stand in your corner. The past few days have literally been hell on earth. We have a lot of feelings that we've been holding back, but we think it's time to muster up some courage and address it. We want to honor those who have lost their lives.
In the midst of the darkness, Annie and I have made our first rule as a married couple: we can't let fear silence us. We can't be afraid to show our political cards. We must show support for our black friends and family. We can't just continue posting wedding photos on Facebook as if nothing has happened. We need to stop hiding our sadness and dissent. We need to acknowledge that our silence is part of the problem.
So, why take a social justice stance on our marriage blog? It’s kind of weird and out of place. We get that. But for those who really know us, you'll think, "They're a couple of hippies, I totally saw this coming." As much as we hate being predictable, thank you and touché. Feminism ain't our only axe to grind, ya know.
This is the saddest I've been in a really long time. I'm sad for so many reasons. Yes innocent people were murdered, yes we are reminded yet again that we are not living in post-racial America, and yes we continue to be divided on this topic in the ugliest of ways. I don't know what makes me cry more, it's all so painful. It's hard to sleep. I think about it all day at work. It's hard for me to hold a conversation with Annie without getting distracted by sad thoughts.
But why now? This isn't anything new. My feelings seem complicated these days, but l'll try to give you the simple breakdown. Alton Sterling reminds me of my close friend, Jeremy. I love Jeremy. We've shared so many hilarious nights together. He taught me how to arrange music. He's been there at some of my highest and lowest moments. He's my brother.
Jeremy is a musical artist and sells his music peer-to-peer. Just as Alton was a fun, loving fixture of his community, so is Jeremy. When I really think about it, there is no reason why it couldn't have been Jeremy gunned down that night. No matter how innocent, generous, talented, and peaceful Jeremy is, it wouldn't matter. If you're really being honest with yourself, you have to accept that police violence isn't reserved for those who "have a criminal record" or those who "should have cooperated more with the police." Every person of color is at risk. All of them. I implore you to see it that way.
This is what leads me into a slippery slope of sadness. My best friend, Joe (the best man at my wedding), is black. A lot of my beloved students are black. A lot of my friends at work are black. I'm not just saying that for your pity or to somehow beg for diversity street cred. I'm not asking you to feel bad for me or praise me for having black friends and family. I'm not brave or worthy of admiration for loving black people. My point is that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have finally opened my eyes to the truth--every person of color that I know could be dead today. Not a single one is safe. It doesn't matter if they're not a criminal. It doesn't matter if they're unarmed. It doesn't matter how beautiful of a person they are. All that matters is that they're black. I take that personally. It makes me weep. I'm ashamed of myself for not opening my eyes sooner. I hope that you take it personally, too.
Every black person that you know or love could be dead right now at the hands of the police, it's true. What's also true is that our legal system and government refuses to do anything about it. What a heart-breaking realization. What do I tell my black students when they ask me if their lives matter? How do I console my black friends and family? Do I tell them that it'll be ok? How do I tell them that when this keeps happening?
Let me get even more honest with you: do you want to know what really makes me sad? And not even just sad, but angry, too. What I've seen on Facebook these past few days:
I could go on and on. And here's the thing: it's a free country, you're entitled to your opinion, and I have no problem unfollowing you to avoid such bigoted rhetoric. Even more so, I have empathy for those with white privilege. I'm practically right there with you as an educated, straight, gainfully employed, Asian male. I get that you may never think of race as an issue or have never tried to see through the eyes of marginalized people. Real talk, I can live with that. I can forgive what offends me no matter how much I hate it. God has mercy for everyone regardless of who you vote for in November.
But what truly makes my blood boil with rage is the time and manner in which people dissent against the black community and their allies. Why must you be so brutally opinionated while we're all still hurting? Why must you trivialize our pain? What do you have to win by telling us that you think that deadly force was justified? What do you have to win by dismissing our plea for justice? Can't you see how much pain that causes? Does it really make you feel good to tell people they're wrong in their most fragile state?
If my mother were to get hit by car and die, would you tell me "Jack...she shouldn't have been j-walking"? If my father died of heart disease would you tweet, "Jack...he shouldn't have eaten so many french fries. Also, #alldiseasesmatter"
HELL NO. You wouldn't dare. Even if that crossed your mind, even if it were true. You'd never be that rude or callous at the loss of human life. You'd never utter such useless, hurtful filth into the world. You would just tell me that you loved me, you're sorry for my loss, and that you were grieving with me. You wouldn't have an agenda, you wouldn't post anything weird on Facebook, and you wouldn't be rude to me or anyone else about it. You would just be sad because regardless of your political beliefs or the circumstances, you'd validate my hurt feelings. You'd come to my house, we'd drink beer, and watch episodes of The Office because no matter how sad life gets, the Threat Level Midnight episode will always be funny.
Right now, all we want from you is validation. We want you to be sad with us. We don't care about your legal opinion, we don't care about your political musings, we just want you to be in our corner because we desperately need you right now. Please. Stop trying so hard to be right--just be there for us. You don't have to agree with me, Alton, Philando, Trayvon, the BLM Movement or any of it to grieve with us. Grieve with us because you're a member of the human race. Just like we would grieve with you and your family regardless of your affiliation with Donald Trump.
I'm tired of being so frustrated about this. I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines. I'm tired of being afraid. I'm tired of seeing people being ugly to each other on social media. And most of all, I'm so effing tired of feeling helpless. That might honestly be the root of my sadness. But perhaps that's the biggest lie I could ever believe.
Yes, we will not change the world today, this week, this year. Let's be practical. But let's not be so jaded that we feel like all is futile. There is a way to fix our broken country and it begins with starting small. Here are some ideas:
I think that if Annie and I did this, it would make a difference. I think if you all joined us, it would make a huge difference. If anything at all, it would make me less sad. Like you, I don't want to be sad anymore. Facebook was never meant for us to discover the bodies of dead black men. It was meant for cat videos, posting selfies, and seeing if your love interest is a Yankees fan (note: stalking is illegal).
I'm sure we've agreed and disagreed on a lot of things in this blog post. But let's agree on this: we're in this together. Let's focus less on being right and more on finding a way for all of us to live with dignity and freedom. Our differences can make us stronger if we don't let them tear us apart. We can solve this together if we can respect one another. We don't have to be sad or afraid anymore. But you know what? For now, we should let our hearts be broken. We should give ourselves permission to be sad. All while knowing that our best days are still ahead of us.
Annie & Jack Vitalsey
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Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.