Coasting is avoidance. It has been several months since I’ve sat down to write a blog. But the murder of George Floyd and the demonstrations around the nation and the world have prompted me to contemplate and reflect. I have captured some of my thoughts in this blog. As always, I open my mind and ears and solicit your thoughts as well.
One of my friends demanded that we “discuss the rampant and blatant killing of Black people for the mere act of living. For jogging, for resting in their apartments, for stopping at a traffic stop, for not resisting arrest yet being held for almost 9 minutes, handcuffed, with a knee on his neck, until his death.”
I have been coasting, influenced by the liberal bubble that is San Francisco. Feeling comfortable that we have progressed with our police and justice system and that city government has continued to address the issues. Our city built a legacy of resistance against the oppression of LGBTQ people. We ignited the acceptance and legalization of gay marriage.
I worked as a social justice activist for decades earlier. I saw myself as anti-racist. Thinking I had made my contribution, I could retire. Besides, I was tired. But now my heart is breaking to feel the pain, the sorrow and the tragedy displayed before me. I was not paying attention…to so many things. The enormous income and education inequality gap; the ways in which the police are shielded from accountability for their racial abuse, aggression and violence; how systemic and institutional racism continues to infect every aspect of our society and culture. Sadly, the work seems unending and daunting.
Brutality “is in the DNA of the systems of control.”
Hatred, bigotry and white supremist attitudes don’t just characterize those who are from the South, the uneducated or the radical right. Instead, white people who consider themselves, like me, progressive, have remained too quiet and too passive. We have enjoyed our white privilege. We have allowed institutional racism to limit, restrict, marginalize, and repress, people of color. Institutional racism lives in the DNA of every aspect of our society. Another curve to be flattened is the upward march of income inequality which impacts having enough to eat, housing, health care, education, employment and more. We have not been active anti-racists. We have been coasting.
The DNA of white supremacy allows police to put a knee to a black man, handcuffed and lying on the ground. That DNA rooted in four hundred years of brutal racism, segregation and slavery has monetized the subjugation of black and brown people today.
To flatten the curve, close the inequality gap and deliver justice will be complicated. When I think about it, I feel overwhelmed. What can I do? Yet, unless we white Americans are willing to take a collective stand to acknowledge our privilege and the cost of that privilege on black and brown people, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry and the many others who have died at the hands of the police, vigilantes and thugs will have been in vain.
There is much we must do:
- Study and help all of us learn how those four hundred years of racism play out today.
- Learn how the insidious DNA of racism embeds in each of us and become actively anti-racist.
- Understand the intersection of racism, sexism, classism and homophobia cultivated by the need for power and control.
- Explore reparations for slavery and the exploitation since. Reparations includes monetary payments as well as sharing skills, knowledge, connections, and access.
- Pass bi-partisan legislation to end racial violence and demand police accountability.
- Explore alternatives to address the social, mental and physical health issues that we expect the police to handle and move those responsibilities and the budget for them to other government and non-profit agencies.
- Reinstate civil rights policies rolled back by the Trump administration and work hard to establish social justice.
- Work to flatten the curve in income, employment, education, housing, health care.
- Commit to do what it takes to create a just and equitable future for everyone.
- We must do more to speak up and advocate as anti-racists. We must have hope.
Finally, I commit to act
Thus, I conclude that I cannot keep on coasting. Rather, I will do more to raise my voice, take a stand and work to change our racist systems.
I commit to explore and learn how racism is embedded in me. I am learning about and getting involved in support for reparations as well as support for making changes in policing in my own community.
We need hope. The work and the learning continue.