In these days after the killing of George Floyd, our country is at a critical crossroads. As a white woman, I have chosen to share resources on social media from those who know better…much, much, much better.* I’ve been doing a lot of listening and trying to keep my big yap shut when it comes to “knowing” and avoid “whitesplaining” because as an ally, I know that’s the right thing to do. Instead I’ve been reading people like Rachel Cargle, Layla Saad, and others to listen and learn.
But since the individual who is inhabiting the highest office in our country recently used tear gas to clear out peaceful protesters so that he could hold up a Bible in front of a church for a photo op…
And since I just came back from a walk where I overheard a group of white women who were lounging in their private pool denigrating the protesters…
I need to say something before my heart and carotid artery burst.
Morality is infinitely easier to uphold in a privileged world. (Though absolutely not a given…all we need to do is open our eyes on that front…)
For instance, it is easier to take a tough stance on immigration when one is born into a zip code of opportunity through no doing of one’s own. “Those kids wouldn’t be separated from their parents if they hadn’t been trying to break into our country illegally! They get what they deserve!”
But what if “empathy powers” were engaged, and those who hold that belief would think about the choices they might make if they were born into the world of those families? If they were told that their children had two choices: join the drug gangs that rule the town and beyond…or get killed. I’m thinking that they would be better able to understand why those families see leaving their homes and all that they know as their best shot at a better life…because they connected on the commonality of loving one’s family and trying to provide the best, safest life for them.
When you think of an issue as though it affects you…it’s not so uncomplicated anymore.
And when I see the anger of injustice spilling into the streets in peaceful protest that has at times turned violent—I try, to the best of my ability, which will never be enough—to think what it must be like to live fully ensconced in a world of injustice where dying at the hands of police is a very realistic fear. Just ask the families of George Floyd, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Tamir Rice, Natasha McKenna, Walter Scott, Bettie Jones, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Eric Reason, Dominique Clayton, and Breonna Taylor.
Empathy helps us understand one another even if we don’t necessarily agree with everything…or maybe even anything.
And empathy is a critical part to fixing this system that is built on injustice.
So…if I am deep, deep, deep down angry that this injustice is our truth when I am one of those who benefit from white privilege…what must the anger be like for the people of color who it directly affects? After decades of trying to seek justice and trying to budge the needle?
It must be exponentially deeper…and complicated.
And the opportunists who are using this time to benefit themselves—and they reach beyond the looters in the streets up into the highest office—are shifting the focus away from the murder of George Floyd…
…and giving a bunch of women in a pool a “reason” to ignore what needs to truly change and instead condemn the fringe as the whole.
What are we going to do, America? Are we going to let the violence justify allowing the continued suppression of change and the denial of inequality, or are we going to try to understand the difference between anger and opportunity and not let it deter us from making right what has for so long been wrong?
I do not have the right to pretend that I “know,” but I do believe this:
The answer is on us. All of us.
And it is long overdue.
But our country is stricken with the debilitating cancer of division and derision.
And if there are those who don’t agree that blasting tear gas at peaceful protesters to clear the way for a Bible holding photo op is wrong…
And if there are those who don’t agree that there is racial injustice, inequality, and inequity in this country that needs facing and fixing…
Then I’m not sure where we go from here.
*a few resources I’ve appreciated…
An Antiracist Reading List
this was a good week (resources for being anti-racist)
When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels
What We’re Reading About The Past Week Of Protests