A White Woman’s Take on Black Murder

Our Role in Dismantling Systemic Racism

Image of protesters in Minneapolis, MN.
Image of protesters in Minneapolis, MN. Photo credit to Carlos Gonzalez, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Hello? Is there anyone there?

I can’t tell anymore.

The news the last few months has been nothing short of horrifying, with more than one day including tears. We don’t sleep well anymore. Our minds and bodies are stressed and our attention spans are nonexistent. But, we have to keep reading, keep listening, and keep fighting for what is right. We have to care about our communities and ourselves.

Our African-American brothers and sisters are being murdered, harassed, and dying at alarming rates, and in the worst of ways. It has to stop. It must stop.

Oh, you thought this was going to be another article about COVID-19? It’s not, not really. I will, however, include this information. The American Hospital Association provided testimony to Congress on May 27, 2020, that COVID-19 disproportionately affects communities of color.

February 23, 2020 — Ahmaud Arbery, an African-American was shot and killed in Glynn County, GA after being chased by three white men, who thought he matched a description of someone accused of several break-ins in the area. In April, two months after the event, the three men were charged with murder, after the video was published and shared on social media.

March 13, 2020 — Louisville, KY police officers executing a search warrant on the incorrect apartment, in the middle of the night, shot Breonna Taylor, eight times after her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker shot at the police, thinking it was intruders. They charged (the charges were later dismissed) Mr. Walker with assault and attempted murder and the officers have not been charged with any crimes.

May 25, 2020 — Christian Cooper, a science publications editor and avid birdwatcher, was harassed and had the police called on him by Amy Cooper, when he asked her to leash her dog. She has since lost her job and her dog.

May 26, 2020 — video footage was published online of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. He died in the street, with a white male officer’s knee on his neck, begging for mercy and begging for his mother. The officers involved in the incident have been fired from the police force.

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” — John Stuart Mill

Why did it take the filming of a public murder to get people’s attention?

None of these events needed to happen. None of these events should have happened. And, we should not tacitly allow it to continue. As white people, our privilege affords us a voice that is often louder than people of color. We are believed more often, seen as less threatening, and more knowledgeable, even when we continue to prove that none of those things are true. Why aren’t we listening? We can see the footage with our own eyes.

The incidents above are just the recent ones. Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland and Philando Castile all came before. Countless other incidents and aggressions that we don’t hear about happen every day. We can hear the pleas for help and the anguished cries of African-Americans all over the country. African-American mothers and fathers are terrified by what they see. They fear raising black children in this environment. Adult black men and women, spanning the entire socio-economic strata, tell us their stories, the ones that aren’t seen on social media. We know that it’s now dangerous to exercise, sleep in your own apartment, walk, birdwatch, get traffic tickets, and wear hoodies while black. To bring it to a fine point, it is dangerous to exist while black.

Why aren’t we listening? Why do we keep saying, “Not all white people!” Of course it’s not all white people. No one believes that all white people are racist, afraid of people of color or angry at people of color. But, it is white people who aren’t listening, who aren’t taking this seriously, and aren’t owning up to the fact that the system is rigged in our favor. I refuse to stand idly by while people I care about are hurt and afraid. If you think that systemic racism isn’t real or that white privilege doesn’t exist, I suggest you educate yourself. Just google it. There are hundreds of resources to learn from. Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein compiled a Google document of anti-racist resources for adults and children. Robyn Hamontree, from Tuscaloosa, AL, wrote a Twitter thread of books that she’s read to help her “understand her role as a white person in perpetuating and dismantling racism”. Both are excellent and worth exploring.

We, as white people, have to stop assuming that we aren’t part of the problem, that we even fully understand the problem. We don’t. We have not be born in skin that is inherently viewed as “bad”. Light and dark, good and evil. All of it relates. We benefit from it, even when we don’t realize it. The benefit of the doubt is always given to us, and the suspicion is always placed on people of color. It’s time to acknowledge the truth. I, for one, will no longer be quiet for the sake of propriety or so I don’t hurt the feelings of someone who thinks that this is an attack. Is anyone listening anymore? I sure as hell hope so because the message is literally life or death.

“Please. I can’t breathe.” — George Floyd