Black Lives Matter: Our Path to Learning and Growing as Allies, Business Owners, and Hopeful Citizens

Black Lives Matter: Our Path to Learning and Growing as Allies, Business Owners, and Hopeful Citizens

I broke curfew a few times in high school. Nothing nefarious, by any stretch of the imagination, but the kind of curfew-breaking you come to expect from your average teenager. You know how it goes. You’re hanging at a friends house, maybe you’re playing some video games or having a few innocent drinks (gasp!). You’re in the moment and before you know it it’s 1am. Uh-oh. Time to roll.

You get home and maybe your parents see you, maybe they don’t. It’s not that big of a deal. My parents were pretty lenient with that sort of stuff. I was a good kid, generally speaking, so they weren’t too concerned with these kind of shenanigans. But worst case scenario they give you a stern talking-to about responsibility, about growing-up, about any number of things that parents are supposed to say when their kid is acting a bit brainless.

One time sticks out in particular, though. I was out past curfew with a certain high school lady friend. Now, let me clarify for those who may not be familiar with curfew laws in Virginia. When I say curfew, I’m not talking a “be home by X time” edict from your parents. In our great Commonwealth, citizens under the age of 18 are not permitted to be driving past midnight. Full stop. To do so would be breaking the law.

In any case, back to the story. So, I was out with this friend a bit past midnight and we decided that, instead of heading home, we would stop somewhere to chat. We found an empty parking lot and turned in. I don’t recall exactly what we were chatting about, but I’m sure it was your typical teenage nonsense. Talking turned into a bit of kissing (again, gasp!) and time continued to float away.

After what felt like just minutes, my car flooded with lights. A cop had pulled in behind my car, walked up to the driver’s side window, and gave it a gentle tap with the butt of his flashlight. Dutifully, I rolled it down to chat with the interrupting officer. My heart was racing. My first thought: sh!t. My parents aren’t going to be happy about this.

The officer asked us to step out of the car, which we did. He asked if we had been drinking (we hadn’t) or whether or not there were any drugs in the car (there weren’t). He asked if my lady friend had wanted to be there with me (she did) and generally gave us both a stern talking to about curfew. We didn’t say much in response, just nodded along politely. He had each of us call our parents separately to let them know what was going on, then sent us on our way, letting our parents take the reigns for disciplinary action. I don’t want to lose sight of the forest through the trees, because this blog post isn’t about that story, it’s about what shape that story has taken when cast under a different light.

I’ve thought about this moment a lot this past few weeks. To me, it has always been such an innocent, funny, quintessential high school story I would tell when swapping ‘war’ stories of the middle-America high school experience. But with the lens of these past few weeks, it takes an entirely different tone in my mind, one that has shed an illuminating light on my own privilege growing up as a white, middle-class man.

If you recall, my first reaction to those lights flooding into my 99′ Mazda Millenia were how my parents might react to my breaking curfew. I didn’t think twice about my interaction with the police. My eyes didn’t dart to his weapon wondering whether or not it would get called into service that night. I didn’t feel fearful that a sudden movement on my part might be my last. I didn’t tremble at the thought that I might not see my family again. In fact, I trembled at the thought of SEEING my family to face their ‘disciplinary action.’

I think you can see where I’m going here, but to be clear: my privilege allows me the expectation of a conflict-free interaction with police. This is not the case for persons of color, specifically Black Americans, and it is something EVERY American should actively seek to remedy. My goal in writing this isn’t to spout some profound revelation, but rather to offer a glimpse into how I am personally learning and growing. Stories like these (of which there are many), do a better job of illustrating my understanding than I ever could with words alone.

Kayla and I have taken a lot of time over the past few weeks to better understand the inherent privileges we are guaranteed simply by the color of our skin. We are working proactively by listening to Black voices and watching/listening to/reading on subjects of privilege, anti-racism, and the fight for racial equality. We have donated our time to local movements, and money to organizations fighting for change. It is an ongoing process, a lifelong pursuit, one that we fully expect to continue to grow and evolve over time.

We will never understand what it is like to be Black in America, but we are committing ourselves to learning and growing as members of our community, as business-owners, as allies, and as hopeful citizens for a brighter future.

To allow space for the voices that need to be heard, Whink’s Coffee will be delaying its official launch to later this summer. We are discussing ways in which, once we are up-and-running, we can contribute to the many issues affecting our planet and ALL of its people.

Cheers,

Michael

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