Dear white people: Please listen to people of color

George Foster is just the latest in a very, very, very long line of people of color lynched by cops or former cops. As angry as I am about all this, I must listen to people who are directly impacted by racism before I start designing and demanding a solution. I can be an ally, but I can’t take the lead.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

George Floyd.

Three more in a long, long, long list of casualties of systemic racism.

Today, I’ve seen a lot of white people lamenting that we need to do something about this, but then disagreeing with things people of color had to say.

This is not how we fight racism, white people. We are the problem here if we don’t listen to what people of color are saying.

An African-American friend posted that she won’t get in line to vote for Biden. She listed her reasons, and while I may not see things exactly as she did, I also never have experienced racism.

I’ve experienced sexism and misogyny, and I know how furious I get when a man tells me it’s not so bad. I can’t imagine telling someone who fears for her life every day that she can’t fight racism in the way she wants (short of violence).

Someone used the analogy of giving a demanding kid candy, even when you know he won’t do what he promised he’d do to earn it.

Neither party has been willing to stand up to racism the way it needs to be done. We need to see cops who shoot unarmed people convicted of murder and sent to prison.

The woman in Central Park who called police screaming because a black man wanted her to leash her dog was completely unaware of — and uncaring about — the likelihood that this man could be murdered because of her actions.

Can you just see the courtroom scene as the audio of the 911 call is played?

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, can’t you hear the utter fear in her voice?”

And the knights in blue armor rushing to defend this poor white delicate flower come off as heroes.

In Charlotte, Keith Lamont Scott was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he feared for his life because he smelled pot — and the officer got away with murder.

In Cleveland, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old child playing with a toy gun was shot and killed by an officer who claimed he thought it was a real gun. The child’s family got as $6 million settlement, but the officer walked free.

I’ve lost a son to injustice, although not like this, not so sudden and utterly shocking, and I can tell you, $6 million wouldn’t make it better.

So what do we, as white allies, as anti-racists, do?

Well, first we listen.

This is not within our realm of expertise.

We do not live in fear of being murdered by cops (or ex-cops) who detest our very existence.

Second, we listen some more.

We do this because trauma is best addressed by allowing people to speak about it.

Then, we ask what we can do to stand with and fight with oppressed people.

Finally, we do what we’re told we’re needed to do (short of violence).

Here are a few things I’ve learned we can do:

Speak out when you see racism and call it what it is.

Don’t call the police when you see a person of color in your way. In fact, unless it’s a matter of life and death, don’t call the police at all.

Be public about being anti-racist. Show up at demonstrations because the racism in our justice system will rear its head and hurt demonstrators more quickly if no white people are there.

Join and donate to organizations that fight racism. A year’s membership in the NAACP ( https://www.naacp.org/ ) is just $30. Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ, at https://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/ ) is actively fighting injustice in cities across the country. The Poor People’s Campaign (http://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org) works on issues of social justice on a state and national level.

Donate to funds that raise bail money for poor people who are awaiting trial in jail because they can’t come up with $500 bond for a nonviolent crime. These people, too many of whom are innocent of any crime, and none of whom have been convicted of anything, lose their jobs, their homes and their children.

Finally, if you are white, understand your privilege. What that means is that even if you’re dirt poor, you still have more power than a person of color in your same situation.

It means that if your ancestors were in this country before or during slavery, they benefited from the economic conditions created by enslaving human beings of color — whether or not they enslaved anyone — and all of us here now benefit.

It really means you have to check that privilege before you open your mouth to criticize how a person of color reacts to racism and oppression.

If we want to end racism, we must confess that we live in a racist society, that racism is pervasive, and that when someone of color tells us something is racist, they probably know more about it than we do, so stop defending it.

The world is watching

Michael Brown's body remained in the street for several hours after he was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 8.

Michael Brown’s body remained in the street for several hours after he was shot and killed in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 8.

I heard a man say today that he was visiting in-laws in South Korea and they wanted to know what the hell is going on in this country. Why would police shoot an unarmed young man and then leave his body in the street for hours?

Back before the Civil Rights Movement, young black men were lynched and left to sway from the branch of a tree for hours as spectators had their photos taken with the “strange fruit,” as Billie Holiday sang.

Again and again, police who are armed to the teeth, or lone vigilantes, kill unarmed black men and get away with it. These men are shot, choked, beaten, and most have committed no crime, or certainly not a crime that warrants the death penalty.

Yesterday was the 59th anniversary of the lynching in Money, Miss., of 14-year-old Emmett Till, whose mother, Mamie, insisted he have a public funeral, and that the casket be left open so the world could see the mutilated body of her child, savagely beaten and murdered because someone said he whistled at a white woman.

African-Americans still live in fear, a fear few of us white people can understand.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Evelyn Paul, a middle-aged white woman, was driving with a young black man in her car.

“I didn’t have the cruise control on because we were in town, and I was going over the speed limit,” she told me. “When the officer stopped me, I leaned over to get my registration from the glove compartment.”

Her passenger panicked.

“Sit up and put both hands on the wheel!” he said. “Don’t reach for anything until they tell you to!”

She had never considered that reaching into the glove compartment would be a threatening gesture.

“I’m a 50-year-old white woman,” she said. “I’ve never been considered a threat — except for when I was in the General Assembly Building and was arrested.”

I never had to teach my sons to not reach for anything until asked. I never had to teach my sons to keep their hands visible all the time when encountering a police officer. Hell, I was able to teach my sons that police officers were the people¬†you seek when you’re in trouble.

White privilege is something most of us don’t even see in our lives; we’re oblivious to the slights people of color endure every day.

But the rest of the world is not. They see what happens to young black males. They know we imprison black people at a rate unseen anywhere — even in apartheid South Africa.

We have a school-to-prison pipeline that most whites aren’t even aware of. Kids in poor, primarily black neighborhoods can be sucked into the justice system just for missing school, and once there, they can struggle for years to get out. By then, they have a criminal record, so when they’re discriminated against in the job market, in housing, at the voting booth, the excuse is that they’re criminals.

Michael Brown had made it through high school without being entangled in the “justice” system; he was to have started college in two days when he was gunned down in the street by a police officer who is still being paid while the incident is being investigated.

As a mother who has lost a child, I know some of what these kids’ mothers feel. My son’s death was unjust. It never should have happened. But I imagine it’s worse to have your child gunned down or strung up. I don’t know how these mothers stay on their feet. My heart breaks for them.

I propose we all start¬†calling these deaths what they are. Let’s be honest, they are lynchings.

 

 

 

 

a world of progress site | woven by WEBterranean