George Floyd: an incomplete list of my thoughts, feelings, and actions in the wake of tragedy

May 31, 2020

It has taken me a few days to wrap my mind around my thoughts and feelings surrounding the events of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the resulting outcry & protests.

For the protests that have turned violent & destructive, I am reminded of when someone explained this perspective to me about immigration and refugees:

“Can you imagine making the choice to leave the only home you’ve ever known, traveling in dangerous and potentially deadly ways, alone or with your family, to go to an unfamiliar place, where your presence will be diminished and your intentions questions? Can you imagine making that choice because the other choice — for you to stay where you are — is far worse? Can you imagine taking the otherwise incomprehensible risk of your life, with only the hope of something better?”

I don’t have the ability to understand the righteous and valid pain and anger and fear that the black community is experiencing. I hurt for them. But the act of love I need to show them now is not empathy; the act of love that is needed is real action.

These are the steps I am taking and recommend for others: Stop focusing on the wrong things, understand what privilege is, and actively work to be antiracist.

  1. Stop Focusing on the wrong things

    • This begins with the misrepresentation of MLK in response to the protests. Even though he seems to be the icon for peaceful protests, he was still assassinated, so white people clearly weren’t convinced that his cause was worthy. There have been peaceful protests for weeks, months, years prior to this, and this shit is still happening. Finally, MLK wasn’t actually against the non-peaceful protests. “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

    • Next, stop bringing up “All Lives Matter”, “Blue Lives Matter”, and “black on black crime.” These concepts aren’t only deeply flawed, they miss the point and are downright tacky. 

  2. Understand what privilege is and how it has influenced your life

    • For each of your identities, you are either in the group of privilege or oppression; this means you have either benefitted from this identity or suffered in society because of it. Primary identities include race, gender, socioeconomic status/class, religion, ability, sexual orientation, and age, but additional identities are also candidates for this dynamic.

    • The societal dynamic of privilege and oppression is as old as history. Whether race, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, or plenty of other categories, there has always been a dominant group that is in power and a subordinant group without it. Specifically in the conversation, White Privilege is at the forefront, but understand that there are way way more types of privilege that play out. Read more.

    • Having privilege does not mean that you have not suffered or struggled at all in your life; it means that you have not struggled more because of a certain privileged identity. Example: if you are a poor white male, you still have white privilege and male privilege, even though you are in a systemically oppressed group of low income earners. If you are a poor black woman who is disabled, these oppressed identities compound in a concept called intersectionality.

    • Video on privilege

    • Read this post from Facebook to help you discern if you’ve benefitted from white privilege.

  3. Become actively antiracist

A few closing thoughts & quotes:

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Gandhi

“Talent and ability are universal; opportunity is not.” — Leila Janah

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