As a contributing writer to a contemporary publication, I would feel a bit amoral if I didn’t take this opportunity and use this platform to speak on what has become the largest civil rights movement in history. A movement inspired and enraged by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, killed by police while in their custody.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches on longer and more monstrously than anyone could have imagined, there is a global desire to return to ‘normalcy’. Unfortunately, in America, the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody, followed by protesters desperate to be heard has become almost ‘normal’. And that isn’t acceptable.
My problem both, as an individual, and especially as a writer is I don’t know what to say. I am a privileged white man who recognizes the atrocity of racism; I’m empathetic to those affected by it and strive to be a part of the change I’d like to see in society’s view of people of color. But black people are not trying to hear that right now. And I get it. White people will NEVER fully understand the effects racism. We will NEVER know what it feels like to be discriminated against due to the color of our skin. Never. And although we may share their tears and fiercely fight beside them in securing their rights to pursue a life of liberty and happiness, ultimately, racism is one of those things that white people aren’t able to comprehend – not fully, viscerally.
Protests over the death of George Floyd have resurrected the Black Lives Matter campaign to an all-time high. Anger towards police because of their casual dismissal of this and similar instances has forced those looking for justice to hit the streets, in record numbers. I support the Black Lives Matter campaign and I also happened to be white. I want to do something. I want to help. I’m just not sure how to do it without coming across as patronizing or inauthentic.
As the protests grow in numbers and bricks and Molotov cocktails are being volleyed across picket lines, white people, like myself are stuck in some active/passive gray area. I’m pretty sure our black friends do not want us calling them and ‘checking in’. They don’t want us asking how they are feeling or what their thoughts are about the current situation. From what I gather, what most people of color want to say to white people right now is “Shut the fuck up, you racist piece of shit. Get out of my face and let me do this.” That’s what I would say.
In New York, the frustrations and protests related to George Floyd and the prevalent racism within this country’s police force has reached a boiling point. Violence is being met with violence in some areas, resulting in a chaotic destruction of property and looting of businesses by protestors desperately trying to make a point.
In an effort to keep the general public out of harm’s way, as of this writing, New York City is still under a strict curfew [Ed. Note: the curfew ended on June 7]. At 8pm, every cellphone in New York bleeps and vibrates with an “Urgent Alert” reminding all residents (with the exception of essential workers) to stay inside, off the streets, and refrain from travelling from 8pm-5am. Living under quarantine all day and then having a curfew at night is starting to put New Yorkers on edge. And please, I have no time to entertain quarantine complaints from my friends and family who have been ‘forced’ to stay home and quarantine in their yards and around their pools.
There are no yards, or lush public spaces, or personal pools in midtown Manhattan. Residents are stacked on top of each other. Nerves are frayed. Each building is its own Jenga tower. Pulling one tenant in the wrong direction could be the one beam that brings the whole building down. With nowhere to go, I cannot help but hear television broadcasts and the conversations of those around me and the gist of what I hear most is “Yes, what happened to George Floyd was wrong but the police have to stop the vandalism and looting.” To me that ideology is a bit twisted. Shouldn’t we be thinking more along the lines of; “Yes, vandalism and looting are wrong but the police have to stop the killing of innocent people of color.”
These same broadcasts and conversations lead others to believe that New York is a city on fire and burning in anarchy. That isn’t true. There have been a few incidents of significant destruction but New York is not on fire and being overrun with anarchists.
New York is pissed, and has every right to be. If so many people are fearful and concerned about protests, how about let’s fix the issues at hand so there won’t be an issue to protest? Until then, there will be protests. There must be protests. Standing up for what you believe in, in solidarity with like-minded individuals, has been historically proven to be the most effective way to get an agenda accomplished. If the persecuted and victimized don’t take a stand for themselves, who will? Clearly we cannot rely on local, state or even federal organizations to put the welfare of persons of color on the same level as the white population. That’s the reason the Black Lives Matter movement began in the first place.
Time and again, this country seems to demonstrate that the lives of black individuals just aren’t as important as those of white individuals. The fact that Floyd was being arrested and killed for the petty ‘crime’ of forgery, amid a pandemic that is killing hundreds of people A DAY, is a perfect example of that. With a deadly virus permeating the very air we breathe, there isn’t anything the police should be policing other than a desperate, alleged act forgery by a single individual?
What everyone knows but few are prepared to say publicly is that this country is racist. To deny it would only be racism 2.0; a revamped, contemporary way of ‘thinking’ that leads to the same conclusion: we’re racist. All of us. Including you.
However, there is a silver lining. Acknowledging our racial tendencies and recognizing things being the way they are gives us power. Think of racism as a loud, rowdy and unwelcome party guest that you hope will leave if you just ignore him long enough. Nope. He’s a persistent fucker who thrives on making others feel uncomfortable and powerless.
But it’s your house and your party. Ignoring him leaves you powerless. If you see racism coming through your door, look him in the eye and get your power back. Stop that bitch before he gets to the open bar. Recognizing and acknowledging racism at your party, and in your life, gives you the power to make a choice, perhaps a different choice than you’ve made before, the choice to remove racism from both your party and your life.
It could not be more clear that widespread reform is needed. A national re-education of our police forces and of our society in general regarding racial equality is long overdue. For there is only one true race, the human race.