The horrific murder of Mr. George Floyd, caught on video for all to see, is a graphic and disturbing reminder of what communities of color have had to navigate for centuries. While we absolutely must seek justice for the Floyd family we cannot stop there. This moment must be bigger than that.
For some white folks it is more comfortable to conceive of this event as the result of just a few “bad apples”. This is the result of a system that clearly needs reform. By the way- all of our systems need reform. From education to health care and beyond- people of color experience a different reality from what I experience as a white man navigating the same systems.
I’m so discouraged when I see white folks in my community, online, and on TV who just don’t believe or don’t accept the experiences of people of color.
I believe people of color when they share about their multiple negative encounters with the police.
I believe people of color when they share their experiences of walking down the street in America.
I believe people of color when they share what it feels like to be monitored and followed when shopping in a clothing store.
I believe people of color when they describe how they prepare their sons and daughters for that inevitable encounter with a police officer.
I believe the teachers of color who fear losing their jobs after continuously speaking up about injustices in their school.
I believe my former elementary students of color when they describe the low expectations (and worse) that they have experienced in our school systems K-12 and beyond.
I believe my college students of color when they describe their experiences navigating relentless biases and prejudices in and out of school.
I believe the data on the difference in health outcomes that people of color experience in our hospitals.
I believe the white woman who doesn’t want her black husband going for a run here in my own community because she fears for his life. He runs near his work in Tacoma instead.
I believe the woman of color who didn’t want her young son to ride his bike home this past Monday because there was racial profiling happening in her neighborhood. She picked him up in her car instead.
I believe my wife when she decides to not have some of her staff come to her workplace this week when there was a militia of heavily armed white men just a few blocks away. I believe that she felt afraid for their safety.
I believe it is time for us as white folks to step up. The case has been made. People of color are pleading with us to finally act. I also believe that many people of color are beyond exhausted with us. We need to stop being silent. We need to stop expecting the oppressed to be the only ones to fix the very systems that oppress them. WE need to fix this!