By Rhie Azzam
Sweet, sweet Destinee Mangum.
I saw your statement today on the news; your tear-streaked, heart-wrenching gratitude to the two men who gave their lives on Friday in defense of righteousness. Your young life will never be the same, and right now it may feel it will never be ok again, and that is ok. Be where you are and feel whatever you do and let no one tell you otherwise. I watched you today and my heart broke for you, thinking of my own little sisters (who are young, and Arab, and under constant threat in this world) and I was so proud of your courage and strength to stand before the world and express your gratitude. I want you to know something, and it is so so important.
This is not your fault.
There is no way in the world in which you should carry the blame of this tragedy upon your shoulders. I am so sorry that you are coming up in this world that teaches you as a woman to shoulder blame for the actions of others. I am so sorry that we live in a world where more and more the insidiousness of white supremacy is showing its face. This action is the fault of a myriad of instances with which you have nothing to do. This country is founded upon a history of the genocide of Black bodies, the commodification of Black lives, and the complicity of "well-meaning" white folks. Where slavery still exists among the hallowed halls of legislation, wearing a new mask, but there all the same.
I watched your mother stand beside you today and say that she was sorry that these men lost their lives at the hands of her children. Sweet girl, they didn't. They lost their lives because this country has stood by and allowed hate to fester and rise. This is the culmination of generations. This is the consequence of white silence. This is what Dr King meant when he said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." This is not your fault. These men did not die because of you.
The two men who died and the young man still fighting in the hospital made a choice on Friday. They chose to stand up against hate. They chose to place their privilege between your bodies and the oppressor. They chose to become a white accomplice and not a white "ally". They chose to not allow the vile disgusting racism of one to intimidate our youth. This was their choice, to stand and say "No!"
I am so sorry that this is an experience you will carry with you all of your life. That you had to be exposed to the vile underbelly of this nation as it begins to present itself more and more. I am so sorry that you bore witness to the consequences of the choices of many to allow this to continue. But more than all of that, I am so sorry that you hold in your heart that this is your fault. To you and your friend, please carry with you that you are not to blame for the actions of that monster. You cannot be held responsible for the decisions that were made that day. To the men who risked everything, they did what was right, and for that they paid dearly. But it was their choice, and thank goodness that they made it.
You are perfect. You are strong. You are worthy. You are deserving. You are a gift to the world.
You are not to blame.
Rhie is studying History at Sam Houston State University with a focus on African American History, specializing in the history of lynching in America. You can find more of her work on her blog Words I Live By.