As protests continue across all 50 states, America’s outcry is deafening, and rightly so. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin – yet another black man killed at the hands of the police – has forced two different worlds of the United States to crash.
After reading comments about the protests online, social media seems to be operating at maximum volume as the best and worst versions of itself fight against each other – the best version: those demanding justice for George Floyd and every other black person murdered by the police, and the worst version: those who will use any argument in an attempt to diminish and delegitimize the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some conversations have shifted toward condemning the destruction of property, looting and overall rioting because these acts are violent, don’t serve justice or my personal favorite, “Are not how change is made.”
For those who oppose the violence, why are these acts more upsetting than police officers who have literally rioted against black people for years? I wonder, as white people, as the oppressors in this situation, do we really have any place to say what is the best way to achieve justice, when we are the ones who have created and benefited from these injustices in the first place? And if this is “not how change is made”, then why is change already happening?
Derek Chauvin’s charges were recently raised to second-degree unintentional murder, and the other three officers were charged with aiding and abetting – a unicorn in terms of America’s track record of prosecuting police officers. If their trials all end in guilty verdicts, pigs might actually start flying. The Minneapolis Police Department is also undergoing a human rights investigation — long overdue — after years of misconduct complaints made by civilians.
Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam, also just announced the decision to take down the 100 year old statue of Confederate soldier Robert E. Lee. So yeah, change is happening, and more white people need to get with the program, including myself.
In hindsight, I realize I haven’t been enough of an activist for the black community. It’s also disappointing to know my own university, Missouri State, has failed to better represent and uplift people of color, and I share equal responsibility in this failure. Most importantly, as white people, now that we are finally listening, we need to do better. This means more than just empty promises. This means direct action, effort and policy changes. All of this really starts with just shutting up, listening and uplifting black people and their experiences.
I recommend watching the documentary, 13th on Netflix, which breaks down America’s history of racism and how that history is still deeply embedded in our prison system. There are thousands of petitions online that can be signed to demand justice for the black individuals who have died from police violence. There are also many petitions asking for the demilitarization of the police, better training for police officers and more accountability for law enforcement that need your signatures.
Many places are needing donations to help support their cause like the Minnesota Freedom Fund, the Black Youth Project 100 and the National Police Accountability Project. If you are able to, attend a protest!
Most importantly, vote. It is a presidential election, and many seats are also up for Congress. Educating yourself on what candidates want to actually reform our policing system is a great question to find out and should be a decision that you weigh heavily on when voting.
So, *ahem* white people? Can we all just join the movement already? Let’s stop condemning the protests and start saying that black lives matter without immediately following it with a “but.” Let’s admit we have contributed to systemic racism and actively work to dismantle it. Frankly, anything less is unacceptable.