My comments at a vigil for the victims of the El Paso and Dayton shootings

Like much of the country, I was feeing pretty wrecked after the shootings at Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton so I decided to write down and then read aloud my thoughts at the Vigil. I was thinking about privilege, and how it is our responsibility to use it in defense of others.

One of the things that someone told me about running for office is that people would stop treating me like I'm a human being. People of color tell me that is often what they experience every day

Another thing that I have experienced is that people project their own experience on to me and I definitely feel the sorrow and the weight of that.

At the vigil, I wanted to talk about privilege but I also wanted to talk about how the randomness of birth determines so much of our experience.

I’m Jewish and my great grandparents came to the US in the 1890s to escape the pogroms in Eastern Europe. Their emigration meant that they saved their descendants from the holocaust.

Jews only recently regained their population numbers from 1945 a few years ago. It took 70 years.

I think about privilege and also about how random life is and how it can all change in a minute.

I often have the opportunity to speak to diverse groups and what I try to do is describe my own experience, and not assume what others have experienced.

Here are my words, or close to them, and the entire night was likely recorded so can no doubt be accessed somewhere. There were many powerful speeches.


How do you use your good fortune? This is something I ask myself a lot.

If you have it, how do you use your good fortune?

I was taught that I was born into a family with certain advantages and that I hadn’t earned them myself. I was taught never to feel entitled to them.

I was taught that there were people on the other side of the world and right next door, some were born with more luck and some were born with more misfortune.

Is it a stroke of luck that determines so much? What is a stroke of luck? Just that, a stroke of something, like a lightning bolt that happens, randomly.

I ask myself all the time, how do I use my privilege?

In the face of trauma and fear, I strive to be courageous but that doesn’t mean I am unafraid. There’s a difference between being courageous and unafraid.

I grew up in Maryland. Let me just say that Baltimore is one of my favorite places in the world. My mother is 86 years old and she is a professor in Washington DC. She received her doctorate at Johns Hopkins when the catalog said “men preferred”

She and my father lived in a tiny studio with one small table that served as her desk and their kitchen table.

One night, when my mother was studying for her final exam, my father decided to lift the top off the table to see what was inside and thousands of cockroaches came scurrying out. My father tried to drown them in water while my mother kept working, knees up to her chin.

This is one image I think of now. This is the image I think of when I watch the President of this country, without compassion, repeatedly traumatize an entire country with his utter lack of empathy for others and his fostering of white supremacy.

Let’s give witness to what is happening in our country. There are a lot of evil things coming out of the woodwork but we need to keep up the fight, be part of the resistance, support those that are most vulnerable. Do the right thing. I personally have promises to keep.

I thank you all for keeping your head down, or up, or whatever is required, while you keep working to preserve our shared humanity.

Even when I feel disgust, or fear, or alarm because our country has tipped upside down, I ask myself, how will I use my good fortune? And I ask you, how will you use yours?

Diana Bray