Two months ago, I felt as if life in America was spiraling out of control.

On July 5th, Alton Sterling, a 37 ­year old black man, lost his life as a result of being shot by police while appearing to be physically pinned to the ground. Less than 24 hours later, 32­ year old Philando Castile, another man of color, was shot by an officer while, during a routine traffic stop, he reached for his license. These events were followed by the horrific shooting of five Dallas police officers—Brent Thompson, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Smith, Lorne Ahrens—during what began as a peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protest.

I remember going to bed that Tuesday night, the horror of Alton’s Sterling’s killing filling my mind, only to fall asleep the very next night with a new name on my mind, that of Philando Castile.

By the time news of the Dallas shootings reached me, my heart was so heavy that I didn’t even know where, or how, to begin grieving.

14218037_10207032123937252_186320169_nFor me, the issue of race relations hits close to home. While living in East Africa as a young boy, my parents chose to adopt Nathan, a Kenyan 8 month old, followed by 8­ month old Jack a few years later. Nathan and Jack have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember; in fact, I cannot remember not having two younger, black brothers.

I always knew our family didn’t fit the norm, but the feeling that our family was “different” became more pronounced as I got older, especially after moving back to the U.S. in 2006. I was a high school freshman at the time, and my most vivid memory of living in the US for the first time can be can be described by one word: tension.

For the most part, everyone at my high school hung out with people that looked like them, talked like them, and experienced life like them. For someone who grew up in an international community comprised of every type of person, I found this separateness to be a bit bizarre.

14256768_10207032125857300_1080157908_nMy brother Nathan, now 19, is a freshman in college, and Jack is starting his junior year of high school. They are growing into men, far removed from crawling and learning to walk in the hallways of our Kenyan home. Because of my brothers, I’ve been able to learn more about their experiences with racism and discrimination as black men. I’ve heard their stories of being followed in stores, of how people look at them at school, and how they see the world . . . and their stories break my heart.

After the news in early July, I couldn’t help think that they could be next.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve also grown more frustrated as well as confused concerning my own response to these issues. I’m a white, 24­ year old. Is this my fight to fight? What can I contribute? My heart breaks for my country, but how can I help repair it?

These are questions I ask myself; however, often finding no answer, I move on to something else, and I am realizing that moving on is the worst choice I could make.

To my white brothers and sisters, this is for you. Unlike us, my brothers don’t get to move on. They have to live with this situation every day. That’s why I won’t move on either. Here are three things I’m learning as I sit with this pain.

First, I must understand that I am no savior, nor should I aspire to be.

I must humbly admit and realize that I am not the first white person whose heart is broken for those affected by racism, and not everything is dependent upon me in order for things to improve.

Secondly, I must learn that the best step I can take is to listen and learn.

How can I be a part of the solution if I don’t take the time to understand the issue as a whole, past and present?

Let me tell you, that second step takes time. It’s no simple task, nor should it be. It requires listening to people, having real conversations, reading history books, searching for answers, and learning about one’s own community. As we all learn more, we can better understand how to respond. This step will also make you realize how much you have left to learn. That’s okay. Keep pressing in.

Lastly, if I am truly disturbed by current events, I must make sure I am committed to solutions rather than earning personal praise.

It’s easy to make things about ourselves, however noble our intentions, but personal praise is not, nor should be, the goal. As we navigate our own plan of action, we must be patient with ourselves while we battle wanting to be praised for our stand.

Remember, we are standing on the shoulders of giants who have fought before us; we now take the torch they passed on, in order to continue the fight for justice, compassion, and equality.

14248888_10207032125577293_1296684983_nThe issue of racial reconciliation is a marathon, not a sprint. The internet age has allowed us to grow used to instant access to everything, and patience has become a foreign concept. However, patience is not only valuable, but essential. Patience helps us gain a richer access to an issue, allowing us to be saturated in the history, vision, and relationships that have the potential to change our perspectives.

And let me be clear: this patience I speak of should not replace or drown out the demands for justice. We should not sit satisfied because things are “better than they once were.” This is also not a call to stop raising our voices in the face of evil, for that is exactly what racism is, and we cannot be silent.

So I invite you to join me. Let’s commit to talking less, listening more, and most importantly, exuding patience. We, as a nation, cannot afford any less.