Warning – this article contains graphic descriptions of police brutality, oppression, and topics that may be triggering for some readers.
I will never forget viewing the video of George Floyd’s brutal public murder by the police a few days after it had happened on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis. George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after a white officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck, pinning him to the pavement while Floyd was in handcuffs as he begged for his life, for eight minutes and forty-six seconds. For eight minutes and forty seconds as the officer continues to crush George Floyd’s neck, he lies motionless on the pavement – but George was not the first.
Turning to David in tears, I’m not sure if I managed to choke out, “They squished him like a bug. This is NOT okay.”
Watching any living thing’s life taken from it breaks me, but seeing a human calmly, and publicly, extinguish another human life in this way was too much. I will never be the same – and I don’t want to be because that would mean turning my back and ignoring a problem that’s already been ignored for far too long.
This is a delicate issue. I’ve been taking my time with this piece. It has taken me weeks to write, mostly because of a fear that I may get it wrong and unintentionally cause harm. We can’t let this fear keep ups from acting.
Racism is real, and it’s alive and well in America. Racism has been embedded in our laws and our systems. To say it isn’t would be to gaslight the people in our country who experience racism first hand every day. Our country has a long history of racism. I saw a protest sign recently that said, “Racism is as American as Baseball” – its true, and THIS is NOT okay.
George Floyd isn’t an isolated incident. He is one of many BIPOC to be murdered by police using excessive force. Mothers shouldn’t fear for their children’s lives, especially when the people they fear are sworn to protect and serve – not harass or murder.
THIS is not okay. So what do we do about it?
- FIRST we need to shut up and listen. Listen to what people are saying. Listen to learn more than to reply. If you don’t know how to help, you likely don’t know enough (yet) to be helpful. In this stage, it’s time to keep our ideas and opinions to ourselves and listen.
- Get educated about anti-racism. There are many free resources about racism in the age of the internet. It’s essential to learn about racism from people who experience it first hand.
- We need to take responsibility for our actions. White people, I hate to tell you this, but cleaning up racism in America is our job. We made the mess, and now we need to help with all the work required to clean it up by taking a strong anti-racism stance.
- Donate to organizations that fight for racial justice & demand the laws and oppressive systems be dismantled.
- Support black and minority-owned businesses.
- Learn about our country’s racist history, systematic racism, and white privilege specifically. (Yes white privilege IS real, and ALL white people have it – EVEN the underprivileged ones.)
- Do your (own) research. Don’t harass your BIPOC friends for information (unless you know they are looking to talk about what’s going on in the world right now). Respect people’s time. There are plenty of blogs, books, and videos freely available at your fingertips, thanks to the internet. There are many books and resources with first-hand information on this topic.
- Once you know better, do better. Every day is a chance to start over and do better.
- Speak out but don’t speak over BIPOC. Use the new knowledge and skills you gain in the steps above to speak out against racism. Make yourself an ally against racial injustice.
- Be ready to apologize when you get it wrong. Remember, when stepping into new territory, mistakes are bound to happen. That’s when we loop back up to step one, “take responsibility for our actions.” Before you apologize, make sure you take the time to understand what you are apologizing for and can make a true apology, from the heart.
We’ve all made mistakes. Obviously – nobody’s perfect! BUT when you KNOW better DO better. Every day is a fresh start. It doesn’t matter where you were in the past, you can put it behind you and make a decision that you will do the right thing moving forward.