My Statement to My Fellow White Folks

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!

3 responses to “My Statement to My Fellow White Folks

  1. Sharon Chakoian

    Well said. We must stand up: first, to every remark from people we know ,secondly, to use this time of electronic interaction to speak out and share words and experiences so that we may confront and understand our own white privileges and prejudices and the desperate need of all people to be respected, and thirdly to demand that our elected officials and institutions make BIG, inclusive, changes.

  2. Kirk, thank you for saying so clearly what we as white people need to take seriously and do something positive about. I really appreciate your acknowledgement that you (and I) as white men have a different lived experience that women and people of color. We need to accept what others tell us their lives are like and do all in our power to help make the needed changes to many systems in America. Kudos.

  3. Kirk, I agree more needs to be done to address recurring injustices. The George Floyd incident was terrible, but not emblematic of all race relations. I have a problem with your unwillingness to go beyond claims/accusation, avoiding specific suggestions for constructive remedy. Like many others who are under the authority of current stiffling authorative establishment bureaucracy. Understandably I suppose you too are fearful of fully expressing yourself. In the interest of truth and real social justice, I encourage you to have courage, extend the conversation anyway. Allow me to assist in this with a couple suggestions.

    Bad apples ARE present in all population subgroups. The issue of bad apples IS very important and central in issues of race relations. Bad apples spread false perceptions and lies. The notion that racism is built into the dna of white people is nonsense, and it was invented by bad apples in higher ed. Concerning bad apples in law enforcement – Suggestion: Police departments must adopt a more stringent, but fair, process of character evaluation when hiring new officers. The military has tightened up in response to increased numbers of bad apples seeking entry into a branch of the military. Police departments can do the same.

    There absolutely must be more dialog (and authentic dialog) in public conversation. Some argue that whites do not fully understand what blacks sometimes experience. True enough. However, when dialog is significantly narrowed to pc narrative, and nothing more, dialog that can lead to understanding is effectively (maliciously) shut down and replaced with inflammatory distortions. For example, notions of white privilege, systemic racism etc. is hate speech directed against all white folks.

    People who do not understand these notions to be inflammatory hate speech are not understanding things because two way dialog has been shut down. Suggestion: Free authentic dialog can be restored if elites in academia and activist media are always held to account when fomenting division between ethnic groups, and required to give equal time to center-right intellectuals who are currently shut out from offering their opinions/observations. Suggestion: After the bad apples responsible for rioting violence are locked up, perhaps town halls could be organized for people from different communities to constructively share their thoughts. False perceptions created by narrow narrative might then be rectified.

    The truth is, without recognizing how bad apples play into these issues, and how destructive it is when free authentic dialog is choked off (like the malicious knee on George Floyd’s neck), the work of reconciliation and improved race relations will not be able to breath.

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