And that change no longer begins with one person, and that it cannot be civil and quiet. That we must be loud to be heard and we must stand to be seen. But, racism isn't the problem.

Racism isn’t the problem, you are the problem.

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I have been silent long enough. My heart has been heavy as our nation has been overturned in just a few short moments. It hit home this week. Just 30 minutes from my home, a man was shot by police. Just 30 minutes from my home have been rallies and protests and boycotts. Just 30 minutes away.

And that change no longer begins with one person, and that it cannot be civil and quiet. That we must be loud to be heard and we must stand to be seen. But, racism isn't the problem.

I’ve witnessed people of every color, race, ethnicity, backgrounds, and cultures both stand united AND band against one another. I’ve witnessed ugly, vulgar, things said to both opinionated people AND those who refused to say anything. I’ve seen people both soothed AND grieved at the hands, and the words, of others. But, racism isn’t the problem.

And sadly I’m here to tell you, that you’re right to free speech is no more. You’re right to freedom has been tainted. We have become slaves of either our own thoughts or the thoughts of others. We have bullied each other into thinking that everything is too hard. That our surroundings determine our who we are as people, and that our worth is somehow defined in the things that we say, and not the things that we do. And that change no longer begins with one person, and that it cannot be civil and quiet. That we must be loud to be heard and we must stand to be seen. But, racism isn’t the problem.

But these rights have not been revoked at the hands of the government, the courts, or even the police. They have not been pushed upon us as laws or commandments, but it has been at the hands of each other. So don’t act like you don’t know what I mean, don’t act like you’re surprised, and surely don’t act like you haven’t contributed. Because see, racism isn’t the problem.

This week, 2 black men were shot at the hands of white police officers. White police officers were targeted and mowed down by an angry black man. People feared for their lives while others made empty threats. Unspeakable acts were committed and people were hurt, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

We have an issue, and the issue isn’t an intangible word or a single action. The problem isn’t racism, the problem is you. It’s me, it’s them, it’s her, it’s him. It’s mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. Grandpas, grandmas, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s all of us. We are the problem. But the bigger problem? We’re blaming everyone else, instead of assessing the situation and evaluating it with a clear conscious. And I know because I’ve been there.

I was the one that dismissed your first amendment rights when you proudly spoke your opinion and I passively refused your concern. You were the one who rejected my thoughts but wanted me to hear your side. They were the ones that asked us to be silent when there was clearly turmoil. She said it would all go away. He said stay back. There was cursing, complaining, violence, bigotry, hatred, and so much more nonsense. But the stir only created more trouble. Everybody seems to have an answer, and one thing remains to be common, and it’s that nothing is working.

The hardest part? I have to admit don’t have a perfect answer. I can just tell you what I know.

I know that love is powerful. I know that the light is greater than the darkness. I know that we all serve a purpose. I know that we are all different, and to be different, we will have differences. The contrast is to not let our emotions overshadow our ability to communicate effectively. To never let a feud drive us to angry words. It is to never allow our heartache overpower our morals. Never allowing anger, or bitterness, or hatred, to spew openly among us.

So why can’t we remove the you, and me, and them, and let it just be us? Because #BlackLivesMatter, #WhiteLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter. Guys LIVES MATTER, life matters. But they won’t matter to everyone if they don’t matter to you. Lives have to matter to us as a whole for change to begin.

So while we are the problem, we are also the exception. There’s no life tutorial, there isn’t a handbook, and I don’t have all the answers- but no one does. So we work together. We band together. We listen to each other, and we agree to disagree. We don’t just talk about change, but we create it- together. We hear each other out, even if it isn’t easy. We help each other out, even when we don’t want to. We look past color, and DNA, and genealogy, and physical appearance. Because we all hurt and bleed the same. And when bad things happen to people, whether “bad” people or”good” people, we still all hurt together.

So change has to begin in our own backyards. Stop blaming everyone else for your problems. Stop hating everyone for having an opinion and then flaunting yours. Listen to each other, love each other. Stop giving dirty looks to people who don’t meet your standards. Stop holding others accountable for your actions. Stop using race, money, culture, upbringing, and mannerisms as an excuse or even a platform. Stop blaming it on racism and start blaming it on the real problem, us.

So we’ve established that we are the problem, and it’s you and me alike. So, if rallying is what’s needed, let’s gather the troops. If you’re hurting, let me know how to help. If we need a moment of silence, let’s hear it ’round the world. Because WE are Americans, and if the only thing we have in common is our humanity, so be it. Let us strive together, let us band together, let us unite as one.

And in the greatest Southern state that there is, let US be ONE Baton Rouge, and then let US be ONE Nation Under God.