My fellow white people, let’s perform a thought experiment, shall we?
Imagine: A video is released of an unarmed white man taken into custody for a non-violent crime who is lying on the ground, subdued by a black police officer who is placing his knee into the white man’s neck.
We hear the subdued, unarmed white man on the ground struggling for breath, begging through strained breath the black officer for minutes to take the pressure off before falling unconscious.
The white man loses his life; the black police officer only loses his job.
Would you not rage? Would you not stand in righteous defiance of a system that clearly failed to bring justice for someone who died in the custody of those who are supposed to protect us? Would you not cry out, make your voice heard, and exercise your right to assemble?
Of course you would; but that isn’t what happened.
George Floyd was an unarmed black man; Derek Chauvin was a white police officer. This was only the latest example of a problem inherent in our society that we are all too aware of; but while many white voices joined in solidarity to call for justice, many of us did not.
We said, “this is a tragic accident.”
We said, “this should never have happened.”
We said, “that cop was just a bad apple.”
We said, “he must have been resisting arrest.”
And then we ate our words when the justifiably angry voices of a country-wide community, a community that has been let down time and time again by a system put in place to “protect” them, were raised.
We told them how to feel; how to express their feelings; how to protest.
All things we had no right to say.
My fellow white people, if you have found yourself telling others to let the system work;
if you saw the video of George Floyd and scrolled past while thinking, “Oh great, another one”;
if you have found yourself praising the fact that, rather than listening and bringing about the justice that the affected community requires, we have called in the military and increased police violence against our own citizens;
if you think that things will all go back to “normal” after this “blows over”;
if you think there is no such thing as white privilege;
if you have cried “all lives matter” in reply to hearing “Black Lives Matter”.
You have a deep misunderstanding of your place in the world.
You are part of the problem. Just as I was.
It is an ugly truth, and one that is difficult to accept, but you need to acknowledge this before you can make a difference.
And you can make a difference.
My fellow white people, I call on you to be active.
Listen to the people of color around you telling you that things are not right.
Stop hiding behind your privilege and the belief that these these injustices don’t exist just because they aren’t happening in your direct vicinity.
Become an ally; become a patron of businesses owned by people of color; support diverse art and literature; expand your social circle to those who are different than you and ask questions about their lives, their perspectives, their dreams; ponder and confront your own inherent biases; use your platforms to help support diverse voices.
If you are unsure of how to help, there are resources out there.
Our fellow Americans are, and have been, fighting for their lives and their basic rights since the dawn of our country; our white privilege allows us to believe the lie that they are being treated as equal human beings. Clearly, this is not the truth.
We are part of the problem; it is time we became part of the solution. We need to be there in support. We can no longer afford to turn our backs on our fellow Americans. Change is necessary, empathy is our duty, and it is no longer enough to say we support diversity; we need to show that we support diversity.
I know that I can do more to be better, and I am trying. The very least we can do is put in effort to support and empathize; we can no longer say this is “not our problem.” It has always been our problem; we have just denied it.
If you would like to donate to help the recovery of Lake Street businesses who were victims of the rioting, please visit welovelakestreet.com
For more ways to support Racial Justice, this article has a large list that is a great resource.