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Let’s get this out of the way: no, this is not my lane. But this is the lane that I have, and silence is no longer tenable.

I am struck by just how surreal everything feels. Like it’s not really happening. But no, these events of 2020 are very real, and the fact that I can sit here and type that it feels anything but is a testament to the privilege I enjoy, despite doing literally nothing to earn it.

That statement is not an apology for my privilege, you know. I’m not sorry for being a middle-class, straight, white, cis-gender, American-born male. Many of you probably fall into most of the same categories. I’m not asking you to be sorry, either.

No one has to be sorry for who they are. But all of us should be sorry for what we do, and in some cases, that means being sorry for what we failed to do. And on that front, there are a lot of amends that need to be made. That’s what we’re supposed to do when we say “I’m sorry,” by the way. Acknowledging that something caused harm is only one part; repairing the harm you caused is what needs to follow, otherwise your words ring hollow.

Here’s what I know I have to be sorry for: remaining on the sidelines and not doing my part to help when the problems of our society made their way into the mainstream consciousness. My inaction might seem insignificant, but when so many of us fail to speak up, the silence is deafening. I have, like so many others like me, unwittingly profited off of systemic racism and cultural oppression. I didn’t do anything, but I didn’t do anything.

So what am I doing to make up for it? What action am I taking that will, in some small part and knowing that it will never be enough, make amends? That question is for me to answer, but if you’re looking for a starting point, I suggest visiting Common Cause and making some specific policy demands to your representatives. Here’s an example, and here are some other suggestions.

That’s how the system is supposed to work. In general, if you keep your behavior within some reasonable guidelines, you’ll be fine. Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins, seems simple enough, right? And once that barrier is broken, once a rule is violated, our system ought to enforce making reasonable and appropriate amends. You make a choice, something bad happens that affects someone else, so you say sorry and then try to make up for it.

What did George Floyd have to be sorry for?

What did Breonna Taylor have to be sorry for?

What did Ahmaud Arbery have to be sorry for?

What about Freddie Gray or Philando Castile or Trayvon Martin or Emmett Till, or the countless other human beings that had their lives cut short because of the plague of police brutality in the United States of America? What was their crime, and was the reparations for any crime worth paying with their life? Systemic racism has taken many forms and oppressed millions of people throughout our history, but for a police officer, a sanctioned agent of the state, to shamelessly and callously press the life out of another citizen (and for his comrades-in-arms to do nothing to intervene) on camera...the oppression reached a new low.

So now what?

Now, like any moment that led to this, you have a chance to do something. To act. To march. To chant. To change. To donate. To record. To speak up, or to pipe down in order to cede the floor to our black and brown sisters and brothers who have been speaking up this whole time. (Aside: it’s not enough to check on or step aside for the people of color in your life for just now. Your consideration and care should be a constant, rather than only when something bad happens. Show love when things are good, not just when they’re bad.)

You have a chance to do something, and even if you haven’t done something when you could have, now is the time for you to say “I’m sorry,” and then make up for it. Replace inaction with action, as long as your actions keep pushing towards the goal and they don’t cause unnecessary harm to someone else.

Still not sure what to do? Here you go, from a Brew Hoop alum:

Black Lives Matter, in case you needed a reminder. Stay safe out there, no matter what; coronavirus still exists.

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