George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020.
Black Lives Matter.
If there’s one thing that I understand completely, it’s that I have white privilege.
I’m committed to being a better ally.
Over the last week and a half, I’ve asked a lot of questions. Shout-out to my wonderful husband for being my main sounding board!
Here are a few snapshots of my recent thoughts.
At the end of this post, I’ve included a long list of resources, ways you can help, ways you can educate yourself and others, and other sources that I’ve found helpful.
Thanks for reading.
Monday, June 1st
I’m having trouble concentrating. I’m so angry about so many things. I’m personally not brave enough to join any of the Black Lives Matter protests, but I am committed to listening. I’ve been carefully observing my friends’ interactions on Facebook, which is my primary social media platform. I don’t have Instagram, and my Twitter is long out of date. I haven’t deleted or blocked anyone, but I have unfollowed a few since Friday. And I think that number may go up.
I deleted the CNN app from my phone, and removed the website bookmark from Google Chrome. I immediately felt better after that.
I have several friends that have participated in protests already, and I pray for all of them. I’ve tried really hard to limit my overall news and social media consumption since George Floyd was murdered one week ago, but it’s so hard to do so.
Tuesday, June 2nd
Today, I felt compelled to go through all my yearbooks – Elementary, middle, and high school. Part of it was nostalgia, but part of it was to study my classmates.
I’m from an upper-middle class, all-white family. Where I live in Virginia is largely “well off,” but each city has its own issues. I was raised in an affluent part of Chesapeake. I was educated in good schools, with excellent teachers and decent administrators. In eighth grade, I applied and was accepted to the second class of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Oscar F. Smith High School. I was thrilled, but I recognize now how nervous and apprehensive my parents were.
Why? Oscar Smith is one of the high schools that has some of the poorest students in Chesapeake. And many of them are black.
I attended OSHS from 2003 through 2007. Were there problems? Sure. There were regular fights. The biggest news story, aside from our championship football team, was a fellow senior getting arrested just two weeks before graduation in the spring of 2007. I drove home from school, and saw a reporter in front of the school sign at the top of the 5:00 news. He’d had a loaded gun in his locker, and there were reports of buried marijuana on the football field.
But, in a way, I was shielded from a lot of the problems and issues. I was part of the “smart kids.” My IB class was fairly diverse – We had, what I think, anyway, a good mix of white, black, Filipino, Mexican, and Asian students. But, we were only 41 students of more than 2,000 students at the school. The only times I truly interacted with students other than IB kids were in P.E., driver’s ed, and orchestra.
The staggering observation I made is that I’m still friends with mainly white people from my early school years. The black, Filipino, Mexican, and Asian people I’m friends with are all wonderful people. My issue? I met them either in college or after that.
I think this is bothering me so much because I’m pretty sure, unconsciously, I valued my friendships with white classmates and acquaintances higher than others. And I hate that!
But, at least I’m recognizing that now, right?
Before we went to bed, Al and I watched the first 20 minutes of the ABC News special titled America In Pain: What Comes Next. I nearly cried three times in those 20 minutes. And I felt so much shame.
Wednesday, June 3rd
I made the following comment to a post on Facebook: “I’ve been coming to terms with a lot of things in my life since George Floyd was murdered. I’ve asked a lot of questions, and I’m learning every day. I’m committed to being a better ally. I know now that I haven’t been the best ally, even though I was blindly confident that I was a good one … I’m currently listening, but I’m going to use my voice on my blog soon about this. Thank you!”
I took the opportunity to participate in a landmark “Safe Space Discussion” through my work today, from 11:00 to 12:30. I was so moved that afterward, I wrote an email to the Chief Diversity Officer, expressing my appreciation for the work that was done on the presentation, as well as fully admitting that I’m not a good ally. She replied about 30 minutes later, saying how appreciative she was, and offered her assistance in helping me to be better.
I remarked to Al how my mom, years ago, had told me the story of the riot at her high school, Miami Killian High School, when she was a student. I want to sit down with her, when it’s safe again, and record that story. I want to learn more. So far, I haven’t found any evidence of it through various Google searches. I wonder if it was covered in the news at all.
A bit of good news came in the afternoon: The murder charge against Derek Chauvin was upgraded to second-degree. The other three officers have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. I was happy to see people celebrating at the memorial for George Floyd, but I’m still apprehensive about a lot of things. Only time will tell.
Thursday, June 4th
I felt less angry this morning when I woke up, but still nervous, apprehensive, anxious. Over the last several days, it dawned on me: This is a watershed moment in American history. And I hope true change is made.
A friend shared an article from The Washington Post on Facebook this morning: Perspective | White parents teach their children to be colorblind. Here’s why that’s bad for everyone.
It was published in October 2018, but this article absolutely hit home.
“White parents often refrain from speaking with their children about race, racism, and racial inequality.”
“This silence reflects society’s view that white people ‘don’t have race’ — that race refers exclusively to people of color.”
“Without fail, parents responded with an expression of shocked dismay, and then emphatically stated, ‘No. What is there to say?'”
“Among the white parents I interviewed, the majority of whom were middle class, parents expressed a desire to raise non-racist white children. Most felt the best way to achieve that goal was to avoid speaking with their children about race, racism and racial inequality – past or present.”
“They also remained silent about the topic of police violence toward African Americans. When I asked parents why, many said they didn’t want to ‘upset’ their children. Others noted that the subject didn’t ‘relate’ to their (white) family’s life.”
“Most white parents who speak with their children about race adopt a colorblind rhetoric, telling their children that people may ‘look different’ but that ‘everyone is the same.'”
“As sociologist Margaret Hagerman argues in her new book, ‘White Kids,’ white parents’ decision about the best neighborhood to raise a family or enroll their children in school shapes the social context in which white children develop an understanding about members of their own racial group and members of outside racial groups.”
“As research demonstrates, identity development is relational. That means people develop an awareness of themselves as a member of a particular group when they spend time around people whom they perceive as being different from them.”
“White people aren’t ‘outside’ of race – they’re at the top of the racial hierarchy.”
All those quotes to say – This is EXACTLY how I was raised. And it makes me sad.
I’m angry that it’s taken me to the age 31 to have my eyes opened. But, at the same time, I remember being afraid, hesitant, ashamed to ask “hard” questions of my parents. It wasn’t until I was in college that there were several late-night instances of discussing life and the world with my dad, long after my mom went to bed. But we didn’t talk about race.
There were glimmers of differences in my childhood and adolescence, but not many. I felt a lot of pity.
Example #1: One of my classmates, D., and his family were recipients of Angel Tree gifts from our church because his dad was in prison. D. is black, and his mom managed to hold the family together in one of the lower-income neighborhoods down the street from our middle school. I certainly didn’t know the whole story, and, at the time, I didn’t think I needed to know. One thing that was clear, crystal clear, was D. was an angry kid. He was always getting into trouble at school. And, now, as an adult, I think part of the reason was because his dad was in prison. I wish I’d reached out to him, offered to help him with his work. But, I knew, even at age 12, it would be frowned upon by my parents.
Example #2: My parents were not shy about their feelings with us buying a house in Portsmouth. Portsmouth is one of the cities in our region that has lower incomes, higher crime rates, and so-so schools. The main reason we chose Portsmouth is because we couldn’t afford the house we wanted/needed where we grew up in Chesapeake, or in northern Suffolk – We needed a house that split the distance between our jobs and commutes. We like our neighborhood, and it’s one of the safer, more affluent neighborhoods. I personally don’t want to think about moving anywhere else until after we have our first child. We have a lot of time to make that big of a decision – We’re not ready to have kids. And when we do, we have at least five more years to consider the schools. However, my parents have made snide comments to me about moving, the schools, and coming back to where Al and I grew up in Chesapeake. It’s frustrating. The other thing I noticed in the last two weeks – We have more white people in our neighborhood than I originally realized. We do have black, Latino, and Asian people. But, our street in particular is all white.
The other thing I’ve realized is my perception of the police has changed. I have a few friends who are law enforcement officers (LEOs), but not many. I know, as a white woman, I don’t have to have to worry getting shot when I get pulled over. And that’s just one of multiple instances of white privilege.
However, there has been too much police brutality. It has to stop. The “brotherhood” mentality needs to give way to full accountability. If you stop protecting the people to protect yourself, then you’re automatically biased. If you stop protecting the people to protect your brother or sister in blue, then you’re automatically biased. If you turn off or hide your body camera, you are biased and doing something shady.
There are so many things that need to change. I’ve posted a link to Senator Bernie Sanders’ recent letter to Minority Leader Chuck Schumer below. I agree with all of Sanders’ points, and I’m sure there’s a few more.
One of the biggest issues that currently exist is qualified immunity. I’ve posted links about that below.
So much needs to change.
What I’m Doing
I’m speaking out. I will no longer be silent. I have been afraid to use my voice. No more.
I am committed to supporting more black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) businesses, restaurants, authors, journalists, and elected officials.
I was already a registered voter, but I am fully researching every candidate that will be on my November ballot. I will be voting!
I’m examining the authors I read, and the subject matter of books. I want to read far more books, essays, short stories, and poetry by BIPOC authors. Just Mercy is next on my TBR. I’ve already ordered White Fragility, and The Nickel Boys. I’ve been researching books by Elizabeth Acevedo, Celeste Ng, Julia Alvarez, Maya Angelou, and Toni Morrison.
I’ve prayed multiple times a day for many people and many things: Black Lives Matter, POC, our country, our LEOs, our military, and our world.
Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide – Southern Poverty Law Center
Qualified immunity – Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School
Best Books Written by BIPOC Authors – Goodreads
DiverseBookFinder – Multicultural picture books
Police brutality must stop – American Medical Association (AMA)
How to Register to Vote – United States
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂