Open Your Eyes, White People
(Image Courtesy of The New Yorker)
I am white. I am socioeconomically privileged. I live in a safe community and don’t worry about my children or my husband as it relates to their safety around the police. I worry about other things, of course - the pervasive availability of recreational drugs, for instance - but I have never had to fear for my life because of my skin color.
The other day, my 13 year old son and I talked about George Floyed. He was sick to his stomach watching a man die. He was enraged that no one stepped in to stop it. He was disgusted that this keeps happening to the black community. My son is 13 and he knows this is wrong.
Just this month, we’ve heard about a black man murdered while taking a jog; a black woman murdered by police in her own home; a black man who had the cops called on him as he filmed a woman lying about her safety because he asked her to leash her dog; and a man murdered by a police officer while begging just to breathe.
I see the struggles of the black community and I am heartbroken. We live in a country where Colin Kaepernick lost his career simply for kneeling in an effort to shine light on this consistent, institutional, generational racism that infects our communities. We live in a country where peaceful protests like that are punished. Am I a fan of violence? No. But I empathize with the anger and frustration of a group of human beings who have been told they are and treated as if they are nothing since the day the white man colonized this country.
People have had enough. The levee has broken and the flood has come.
If you believe that this is media hype, or that these protesters are wrong, or that these deaths are not indicators of an insidious problem in our society, then I invite you to unfriend me. It’s not because I can’t handle a respectful conversation or difference of opinion - rather, it’s because I think racism is bullshit and I’m not interested in being connected to someone who would say they care about human life, but then turn their heads to the needless loss of human life at the hands of those who swore to protect and serve, or to the injustice perpetrated against our brothers and sisters because of the color of their skin.
I know that there are really good cops out there. I know there are many who care about the communities they serve and avoid violence as much as possible, using weapons only for the most extreme of situations. But in 2017 alone, over 1,100 people of color were killed by police. More than 700 of those were responses to non-violent crime or traffic violations. Only 13 resulted in charges against the police officer involved. See this report, if you don't believe me: https://policeviolencereport.org.
To my White friends and family, I encourage you to research this issue and open your mind if you feel confused about what is happening. Because we are now all citizen-journalists, we have the heavy burden of seeing these crimes as they occur. We can turn our heads, turn off the TV, take a break from social media - OR we can keep our minds and eyes open and we can use our privilege to support people when they need it most.
Robin Stock is a 17-year veteran fundraiser and writer. She is deeply committed to serving the community and is an outspoken advocate for equity and civil rights.