Karla Stephan's Speech

It is not enough to be not racist, you have to be actively anti-racist

Hi all, I am honored to be here with you. I am speaking today not to tell my story as a white person, an Arab American, or the daughter of immigrants, I am here as an American, who has made a commitment to be anti-racist.

As Americans we all share the responsibility to defend the truth, to stand up for each other, and to speak up against injustice. Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

We are here because we are outraged. As we should be. We shouldn't just be fighting against racism when an innocent man is killed. It shouldn't even have to get to that. Our silence is complicit and anti-black.

I hope you listen carefully to the stories and experiences shared today. And I hope that you can use them to challenge the claim that “Bethesda doesn’t have racism.” Let us think about it. It's not enough to not say the n-word, that's the bare minimum, you have to actively be anti- racist. Black lives matter more than white feelings. So call out your friends when they are being racist.

Let us absorb what we hear today and challenge next time someone makes the claim “all lives matter.” Yes all lives do matter but let’s say a house is on fire. Naturally, we call the fire department and we put it out. A neighbor comes out, outraged asking “why are you only paying attention to the house on fire? My house matters too. All houses matter.” Of course all houses matter. Your house is not the one on fire. Before we can focus on all houses, we have to put out one on the fire.

Do all lives matter? Yes. But responding with this statement invalidates the fact that black lives are being treated as if they don’t matter. Don’t be mad because you don’t have a movement, be happy you don’t need one.

Being Black is not a choice. But being a police officer is a CHOICE. It is not an unchanging aspect of their lived identity. It is not a life, it is a JOB. When we shout out ACAB, we aren’t against cops as individuals. But our personal positive experiences with cops do not outweigh the fact that the entire criminal justice system is built on, and promotes, institutionalized racism.

As a community, let us recognize our privilege. Privilege doesn’t mean you don’t face problems. It means that you don’t have to fear getting murdered because of your skin color.

We can do better.

We will not wait for black folks to educate us. We must educate ourselves.

We must call out our racist families and friends.

We must organize our communities.

We need to shut up and listen.

We must listen to what black folks need and we must deliver.

We must put our time, money, and services on the line.

We must show up for black folks who are here, not just when black folks die.

This must be our practice, today and every day.

If you are here, you need to really support the movement, and not just for today, but forever. Stand with black people and call out injustice even on a small scale. We have to acknowledge the problem, knowing that we can't erase it completely.

Let them know WE ARE WITH THEM in solidarity and they are not ALONE.

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