Three things I know to be true:
We are wildly imperfect beings.
We hold a great many contradictions.
We are fluid, ever-changing, ever-trying, ever-adapting.

Another thing I know to be true:
We are killing each other.

I have read that there are two sides here: the oppressed and the oppressor, and that to remain silent in tumultuous times is to take the side of the oppressor. Desmond Tutu said it first, and then Twitter retweeted it and now it’s been lost in ether. Here it is, then, the first:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. -Desmond Tutu

Here is my question for Mr. Tutu, for today, for you and for me:

What if the jungle is crowded? What if we are searching for truth among the leaves, the brush, the incessant rain – and it cannot be found? What if the lion is roaring, gnashing his teeth at the mouse, what if the lion claims the tiger is at fault, what if the elephant is running from the lion, the tiger, and we’re all looking at one another, confused and contradictory animals unsure of who/what is happening to our kingdom on earth? Which is the elephant? Which is the mouse?

What if we cannot choose a side because there are no clear sides to choose from? Because it is not so simple? Because this is not a basic equation: us vs. them? What if there is no us? No them?

What, then, shall we say?

There are infinite sides here. There are the simple sides, yes: elephant vs. mouse. Cops vs. blacks. But then there are many, many more sides at work: the media, the government, the strategy of the news cycle, this nation’s very history of injustice, our current democratization of information, the distractions from truth, our lack of critical thinking, a predisposition to snap judgments, a fast-paced society sharing link-bait headlines not yet digested. There is long-term resentment and widely-held beliefs and there is fear and fear and great, great fear.

And when we form our sides based on fear, based on assumption, based on what we think to be true but do not know to be true, we roll together these many perspectives – our infinite factors – and we cut them into two parts: elephant vs. mouse.

We sharpen them, over time, and they become daggers.

What, then, shall we say?

We say what Daniel Tiger teaches our toddlers to say when a fallen tower of wooden blocks ends in tears:

I’m sorry. How can I help?

One thing I know to be true:
Black lives matter.

I do not know what it means to be Alton Sterling, to be Philando Castile.
I am so, so sorry.
I do not know what it means to be black in this country.
How can I help?

I do not know what it means to be Michael Krol, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, and Michael Smith.
I am so, so sorry.
I do not know what it means to be a white officer in this country.
How can I help?

I see you. I hear you. I am trying to understand.
I am so sorry.
I want better for you. I want better for us.
How can I help?

An apology that assigns blame is no apology. We cannot rebuild a fallen tower with pointed fingers. We are not here to take sides, to stake claims, to deepen further the fences that divide us.

I am so sorry.
How can I help?

Here’s a way.
And another.
And another.

One final thing I know to be true:
A circle – a symbol of unity, togetherness, one – has no sides.

But if we must pick, if we must choose, if we must fight for a side with our words and our ears and our hearts and our souls, it is my hope that we can remember one more final thing:

We are not here to choose the side of black over blue, or blue over black, or this hashtag over that hashtag. These are not the sides we must choose.

The sides we must choose are far more complex, far more difficult, far more trying and far, far, far more rewarding.


A mouse, his tail.

  • I have three black nephews and 4 black nieces, some already grown and out in the world, all being raised in “good” white families full of love and caring and still I worry about what this world will be like when the youngest ones will be old enough to know what’s going on, or what isn’t. Thank you for your words, Erin, your perspective, and for reminding me of the importance of not placing blame but of thinking, and personal responsibility, and love and compassion on all sides.

  • i love this. thank you so much for putting my feelings into these beautiful words.

  • Who knew Daniel Tiger would have wisdom for the ages?
    I do know that when the internet, and the world at large, is just too much to bear, PBS Kids always fills me with joy and hope. So there’s that.

  • Thank you for bringing a calmness to a chaotic time/situation. It’s so complex, yet so easy if we all worked together. My heart feels a little bit of peace after reading your post.

  • I’m been thinking about this and you couldn’t have summed it all up any better! Thank you for writing!

  • Thank you for your words, it’s nice to know the blogs I follow care about the world, and not just about pretty things.

  • Erin- thank you for your thoughtful and compassion-filled words. I was watching my multi-ethnic 6 year old play with her friends and none of them care about race, economic status, gender or religion. They just love one another as people. We should all remember to love one another as well as the wisdom of Daniel Tiger:

    “We are different but that’s okay
    Because sometimes we feel the same way

    In some ways we are different
    But in so many ways, we are the same”
    ~In Some Ways We Are Different

  • i want to nod my head and agree with this in full, but as a fellow privileged white lady, i have to pipe in and ask you, and all others who are likewise privileged to sit with the discomfit of it. to sit and reckon with what it means to have never ever had to worry about the day in and day out microagressions that POC have to deal with, day in and day out. Philando Castille was pulled over 57 times, for reasons that would never pull a white person over by the police.

    Of course, saying this, does not mean I am pro-cop killers, but it does seem like it has to be one side or the other these days. again, i appreciate your words but i think they underscore the privilege that we (white america) has to not take sides, to not stand up. to not say: i don’t want police gunned down, but more importantly, i want to do what i can to address and break down the white supremacy that is choking us all in this country.

    sorry for the novel.

    • oh karen, i LOVE your thoughtful comment! thank you for speaking up with love and grace. i agree – there is much to learn from discomfort, and i’m right there with you – reading, learning, listening. you’ve given me much to think of today – thank you for that.

      • sending love and light to you and everyone else willing to have this conversation and work towards change. i have found this quite useful: hope it helps on your journey too!

      • THANK YOU! i so so appreciate you, karen. and again, your comment so respectfully and lovingly nudged this conversation into new territory, and we’re all better for it. thank you!

  • Oh my goodness Erin! You have just sent a shiver down my spine! Such powerful words so beautifully written. Thank you. If only we could all choose the way of love.

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