June 7, 2020
What Will It Take?
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Liberty and justice for all. This is the elephant in the room. And we all know in our hearts that it is not true.
We all have heard lately about the deaths of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Korryn Gaines, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee and so many others at the hands of police or white supremists. Yet nothing has changed. This week, the majority of the people have been peacefully protesting about George Floyd’s death and racial injustice, and are being met with more police violence. That doesn’t seem to be a response indicative of a better understanding or leading to a better resolution of the problem.
What kind of country do we live in that doesn’t care about its citizens being killed by its police, who are supposed to protect us? What kind of people see what is happening and turn their heads, saying, that’s not my problem? What does it take for people to care?
It takes an understanding of HISTORY. An understanding of how African Americans have been treated throughout the past 400 years, from slavery and being counted as 3/5ths of a person to today’s police violence, mass incarceration, economic, environmental and racial discrimination, access to health care and voter suppression.
It takes EMPATHY. Do you deny any of the ways they have been and continue to be treated? Try upping your empathy quotient. I know you have heard the saying “Walk a mile in my shoes.” But what does it really mean? First, you have to make yourself vulnerable by accepting that maybe you don’t know how someone else has it. Then you have to ask them to tell you what their life is like. Then you need to believe it. After this, it might be easier to truly understand their point of view and where it comes from. Gaining empathy can be a rocky road for some, but with it, we will become one people, a nation of mutual respect and understanding.
It is going to take recognition of our WHITE PRIVILEGE to get past saying, “That’s not my problem.” Are you saying right now, “I don’t have white privilege!”? Consider this. Can you go out at night in your car without worrying you’ll be arrested or shot? Can you walk around your block without people wondering if you’re suspicious? Do you worry if your children will come home at night without becoming victims of police violence? Can you go bird watching, walk through a white neighborhood or go to a public park, without the police being called on you? Can you go jogging without worrying about being shot? What if your car breaks down; should you call the police for help? Have you had “the talk” with your kids about what can happen to them when they’re out in public because of the color of their skin? Have the police come into your house without permission and shot your family? These are just some of the things that black people live with every day. And you don’t. That is white privilege.
This quote from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice Co-interim Executive Directors Allison Riggs and Ryan Roberson sums it up well. “Change will only come about when the cost of benefiting from a system of oppression that has plagued this nation becomes too high for those in power.”
We have the power to make the cost too high for those who would keep things the same. No matter how much those who have benefited try to ignore and distract us, this problem has reared its head and is not going away. The time has come to fix it.