Being a white, heterosexual female who grew up in the sleepy suburbs of Massachusetts- there were many horrors in the world beyond my seemingly safe, quiet community that I had never experienced firsthand but had known about from watching the news, from history lessons my teachers had quickly glossed over during my classes- and from my parents- who always made it a priority to teach me about the darker sides of our country’s past and how to be proactive in preventing those same injustices and atrocities from being committed again.
While the term “white privilege” was not as commonly used in my upbringing as it now in current conversations as we as a society re-examine our responsibilities to one another- I knew that there was the possibility that I would not have to face certain hardships simply because of the color of my skin. I knew there were people out there who still feverishly carried the torch of racism and bigotry with them at all times. What I didn’t know- at least until I was in my early twenties and out exploring the world beyond my suburban surroundings- was that many of those people with racist views and beliefs were also somehow allowed to patrol and control our communities.
I have had my fair share of run-ins with the police over the years. Be it traffic stops, playing music too loud at parties, or disorderly conduct- and it’s at this point that I have to step back and say that my white privilege is the real reason those encounters did not escalate into violence. At best, I was given a stern talking to. At worst, a ticket or a citation. Something I could pay, walk away from and then promptly forget about.
Unfortunately, there are many- too many to count- instances where someone who committed the same or similar offenses as I have in the past did not get to walk away or forget about it at all- and the only reason they couldn’t is because they were black and targeted for it. My white privilege has saved my life- and now I want to use it to try and help others who are being unfairly sought out, beaten, humiliated, traumatized and killed by systemic racism that has been prevalent in police departments across the country for longer than I’ve been alive.
What happened to George Floyd was horrifying- made even more disgusting by the fact that not every cop that was involved in his murder (and yes, it was a murder in broad daylight and caught on camera)– has been arrested yet. Time and time again we hear about unarmed black men, women and children being terrorized, brutalized, and sometimes killed in cold blood by the very authority within their community that took an oath to protect them- and these officers are never held accountable or punished accordingly. Charges are never filed. Guilty verdicts are rarely reached- and the names of the victims become another hashtag to add to an ever-growing list of victims to police brutality- only looked back on by white people when the next killing happens.
When a police officer murders an unarmed black man, woman or child- they are quick to victim blame. They will find anything they can to justify the officer’s actions. The victim had marijuana in their system. The victim didn’t comply with commands. The victim had prior arrests. The victim once posted photos of themselves drinking or partying with friends on social media. We never learn about the officer’s past complaints, convictions, domestic incidents, etc.
It’s a demoralizing cycle- and the nightly riots that have resulted since Floyd’s death- which appear to be mostly instigated by the police themselves and encouraged by a racist President- are not surprising. A change is needed- and it’s needed now- starting with the arrest and conviction of all officers that were present when George Floyd died. Every officer that has a violent past or has been recently photographed or filmed being excessively aggressive at peaceful protests need to be taken off the force. We need a better vetting process for cops- including thorough social media checks as many of them have been caught being blatantly racist when they thought no one was looking or would care.
I wish I could say it was as easy as voting- and voting *does* make a difference- but we need more than that. We need all hands on deck to support the black community- by educating ourselves, by listening to their needs and not being dismissive to their concerns or by making their struggles and their pain all about ourselves, by uplifting their voices to make sure they’re heard- and by protecting them- physically, mentally and emotionally. If you are white, use your privilege to keep them safe- because we have been shown time and time again that the police will not.
And I know that not every cop is bad. I have cops in my family- but there is a tipping point when good cops, who keep letting the bad cops get away with violence and murder over and over and over again also become bad cops in their silence and complicity. At what point does your job mean more than your conscience or your character?
I wanted to provide a few links to organizations that are helping the communities during the protests for those who want to support the cause and cannot get to a protest themselves. I stand firmly with the Black Lives Matter movement and I hope that you all will, too.
- Black Lives Matter
- Black Visions Collective
- Reclaim The Block
- Communities United Against Police Brutality
- National Bail Fund Network (for detained protesters)
- George Floyd Memorial Fund
Be good to each other. Sending you all love right now.