Thoughts on Mia McKenzie’s letter to white liberals

Earlier this week, Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous wrote about being saddened by her own lack of empathy toward the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, which she attributed to burnout from all the times when white people ignored violence against people of color.

My first thoughts were: I can’t. I just can’t. This is raw and honest and important, but I just can’t deal with anyone expressing a lack of empathy for the victims–no matter how understandable her reasons, no matter how clearly she wants to be able to empathize. Not after last week.

Then, a few days later, it showed up on my Facebook newsfeed, and I read it again.

It still hurt to read. Not only because of the lack of empathy that still hit me viscerally, but also because of McKenzie’s assumption that only white people were harmed by the bombings. In fact, one of the three people murdered at the Marathon was Lu Lingzi, a student from China. I’m not ok with erasing her.

Also, the effects of the bombings and the subsequent scary-as-fuck manhunt were felt city-wide. This wasn’t a white-Bostonians trauma: it was an all-Bostonians trauma.

That said, I still think McKenzie’s piece is important, and I’m glad she wrote it.

It’s a painful read, especially as a Bostonian.

And I really wish she had acknowledged that people of color were in fact affected by the bombings.

But that doesn’t change her immediate, visceral reaction, or the very real circumstances that led to it.

That doesn’t change the truth that racism kills children like Trayvon Martin.

That doesn’t change the truth that many white people ignore the suffering of people of color, and that even those of us who are trying hard to fight racism can do better.

McKenzie’s pain–and that of her friends who reacted similarly–is real. Boston’s pain, both individual and collective, is real.

As hard as it is to hold them both in my mind, to simultaneously honor both kinds of suffering, I will try.

Because I want to work toward a world in which neither has to happen.