Copyright © While They Sleep

Friday, August 17, 2012

You don't get my sympathy...

As a person of color – no, as a human being, I feel very little sympathy for Julie Sanders. 

NPR recently wrote an article in which a 40 year old woman, Julie Sanders, a mother of three from Portland, Oregon, belonged to a white supremacist group when she was 16 years old.  In 1988, she witnessed a murder of a 28 year old Black man, Mulugeta Seraw, who was violently killed outside of his apartment.  She witnessed this murder in the back seat of a car – the very same car the white supremacists exited when they intentionally set out to kill one of the three Black men they passed by.  The killer was her then boyfriend.  Sanders stated that in revealing this story to her friend at StoryCorps, she had rarely talked about her past at all.  She started out recalling her teen years and wanting acceptance as she didn’t receive it from her parents. "I was on a search for people who wanted me around. My parents didn't," she says. "And there was nothing about me that felt special. So, when I met these friends, it didn't matter if I was pretty or funny. None of that mattered. They liked me — because I was white”
With her new found group of “friends” she spent her weekends drinking, driving around, and looking for people to get into fights with.  When there wasn’t anyone to harass and beat up, her boyfriend used her as a punching bag.

This is the only time I feel sympathy for Sanders. No woman – no person, should be someone’s punching bag.

As NPR’s story on Sanders progressed, it was stated that in the criminal trial, Sanders testified on behalf of the plaintiffs in that case, not the defendants – her boyfriend being one of them.  For her part in the incident – being a witness and I’m assuming an accomplice to the crime, she was sent to a girls’ reformatory where she spent several years hiding from that horrible night when Seraw was murdered in her plain sight.  Sanders is turning her life around and teaching her three children to be accepting of others – their similarities and their differences.  She went on to complete her degree in social work and plans to work with children who are at risk of joining hate groups.

For all of that, I applaud her. I applaud that she can see the wrong she was a part of and try her hardest to break that cycle.  With that being said, I still feel very little sympathy for her. 
It’s easy for a White person to say “I’m sorry” in situation like this – I’m sorry I witnessed a person of color being murdered and didn’t give two shits or a fuck at the time.  I’m sorry I was haunted about that and that it took me years of trying to hide it before I came clean to someone to you know, rid myself of the guilt I still hold. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I in some way perpetuated the death of this man, a man who had a family – a child who called him “daddy.” I’m sorry.

Fuck that.

I’m sorry you felt the need to get acceptance by people who didn’t care about you at all. I’m sorry you were in that car and a part of such a violent and hateful act against humanity. I’m sorry that your children will grow to learn the true legacy of their mother – and that your hands will always be dirty. I’m sorry that a young man, with so much promise, lost his life because the hate you felt for him. You may not have thrown the final blow from a bat that took his life, but your hate filled heart, you presence and the simple fact that you sat around and did nothing to stop it – even running the opposite direction for help, shows me that you’re not sorry at all. The only thing you’re sorry for is feeling this enormous amount of guilt. Which you should.

Seraw will never get his life back.  While you did. You can move forward and again, I applaud you for making positive changes, but you get very little sympathy for me. As a person of color, as a human being, I feel sorry for YOU. I feel sorry that your heart was filled with so much hate – that you took part, in one way or the other in the loss of this man’s life. Who knows how many other Black people your group of friends beat up and you stood by doing nothing.

I hope you continue to progress in a positive way. I hope you continue to strive to change your hateful past. But you don’t get my sympathy in the process. You don’t deserve it.