June 3, 2020

The Only Thing I Really Understand Is That I Do Not At All Understand

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Watercolor painting by Nicholas Belton depicting the face of George Floyd encircled by the words "Enough is Enough is Enough"

(Artwork courtesy of Nicholas Belton)

On Monday evening, May 25, 2020, 46-year-old George Floyd bought a pack of cigarettes at Cup Foods Deli in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Shortly thereafter he was accused by deli employees of paying for those cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill and the police were called. 17 minutes after they arrived on the scene and arrested him, George was dead. He was murdered by Derek Chauvin, an officer with 18 previous complaints filed against him, while three other officers stood by and did nothing.

 

It took only 8 minutes and 46 seconds for Derek Chauvin to claim the life of this innocent man. To press his knee into his neck and cut off his air supply. To ignore him 16 times when he said he couldn’t breathe and begged for his life. To disregard the helpless cries of bystanders pleading with him to stop. To asphyxiate and kill him.

All because George was Black.

Artwork by Danielle Coke with words reading "until you fix it here" pointing at an image of a heart followed by words reading "and address it here" pointing at an image of a house followed by words reading "nothing changes here" pointing at an image of a globe
Artwork by Danielle Coke

IT'S TIME TO GET UNCOMFORTABLE

I recount this story not for you. But for myself. Because writing those words is uncomfortable. Because reliving the video images of George’s lifeless body pinned under the knee of a police officer is uncomfortable. Because acknowledging and accepting that racism is as alive and well today as it ever was is uncomfortable. Because recognizing that I am a privileged white person who hasn’t fully done my part to be antiracist is uncomfortable.


And it’s well past time for the White community to get uncomfortable.

I’ve never considered myself racist. Despite growing up in the south where racial inequality and injustice were (and are) blatant, I was raised in a home where we weren’t taught to see color and where bigotry wasn’t tolerated in any way. I’ve always had black friends. I’ve championed equal rights. I’ve participated in protests and marches. I’ve spoken up and spoken out. I’ve empathized and loved. I’ve not discriminated. I’ve done all the things I thought you do when you’re not a racist person. But boy, have I had it all wrong. Not only have I failed to properly take stock of my white privilege, I’ve failed to understand that there’s no such thing as “not being racist.” You’re either racist or you’re antiracist. And I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been so incredibly unaware.

To my Black friends and to the Black community: I’m sorry.

Drawing of face profiles in different colors representing different ethnicities, set side by side and with the words "Enough is Enough" in block letters to the right of them

And I will never understand. But this isn’t about me. It’s about change. It’s about taking it upon myself as a white person to educate myself. To stop talking and listen. To find ways to support the Black community in actions, not just in words. To speak up and speak out. It’s about taking responsibility and doing the work that needed to be done long before now.

I’m not in the position to tell anybody what to do – Lord knows I have enough listening and learning of my own to do and the last thing this world needs is another hypocrite. But I will not be white and silent. I pledge to do the work and to use my voice to fight this battle. And to do so for the long term. Not just in this moment when all eyes are on the issue, but when they are not. Because we can’t let the news cycle shift and George Floyd to become another distant memory as has happened over and over and over again.


Enough is enough.

Quote card by Benjamin Franklin that reads "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."

HOW TO EDUCATE YOURSELF

For anyone looking for a place to start or for more resources to educate yourself, below is a list of articles I’ve read and videos I’ve watched in my own search for guidance thus far that I hope can be helpful to you as well. I’m also sharing the list of antiracist books I’ve started to compile based on recommendations from my Black friends and from Black activists and leaders, as well as links to antiracist organizations you can get involved with and donate to. I recognize that these lists are only scraping the surface, so please leave a comment or send me an email if you have recommendations to add. I welcome your input and would love for this to be a community effort, where we join forces and commit our efforts to the Black community in hopes of effecting real and lasting change.

The more voices, the louder the cry.

ARTICLES & VIDEOS OF NOTE:

Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History

By Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui and Jugal K. Patel, New York Times

Alicia Garza Co-Founded Black Lives Matter. Here's Why She's So Hopeful for the Future.

By Rachel Hartigan, National Geographic


AP Changes Writing Style to Capitalize "B" in Black

By The Associated Press

Change Can Happen: Black Families on Racism, Hope and Parenting

By Patti Neighmond, NPR


As BLM Goes Global, It's Building on Centuries of Black Internationalist Struggle

By Brandon R. Byrd, World Politics Review


How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

By Barack Obama, Medium


Black and Brown People Have Been Protesting for Centuries. It's White People Who Are Responsible for What Happens Next.

By Savala Trepczynski, Time

The American Nightmare: To be Black and Conscious of Anti-Black Racism is to Stare into the Mirror of Your Own Extinction

By Ibram X. Kendi, The Atlantic

5 Things White People Can Do Right Now to Combat White Supremacist Violence

By Showing Up For Racial Justice, Medium

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

By Peggy McIntosh

Me and White Supremacy: How to Check Your White Privilege

By Zoe Beaty

How Amy Cooper and George Floyd Represent Two Versions of Racism that Black Americans Face Every Day

By Michele Norris, The Washington Post

The 1619 Project

By The New York Times Magazine

We are All Horrified, but Only White People Have the Luxury of Being Shocked

By Mary McNamara, LA Times

Dear White People: Here Are 10 Actions You Can Take To Promote Racial Justice in the Workplace

By Dana Brownlee, Forbes

White America: If You Want to Know Who’s Responsible for Racism, Look in the Mirror

By Dahleen Glanton, Chicago Tribune

White People, If You’re Angry About George Floyd You Should Stay That Way

By Georgia Aspinal, Grazia

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What Do We Tell Our Children?

By Alia Dastagir, USA Today

How to Support the Struggle Against Police Brutality

By Claire Lampen, The Cut

If You’re a White Person Wondering What to Do During the George Floyd Protests, I have Some Advice

By Michael Crawford, Independent

Why You Need to Stop Saying ‘All Lives Matter’

By Rachel Elizabeth Cargle

Racism is a Public Health Issue and 'Police Brutality Must Stop,' Medical Groups Say

By Jacqueline Howard, CNN

Black Parents Explain How to Deal with Police

By Cut (@cut)

White People Let this be a Lesson

By Gary Chambers, Jr. (@garychambersjr)

Congrats, You Woke Up. Now What?

By Danielle Prescod

Do the Work: Be an Ally in Deed Not Only in Word

By Shakera Jones (@BlackGirlsDineToo)

George Floyd and the Dominoes of Racial Injustice

By Trevor Noah

IMPORTANT BOOKS:

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

By Ibram X. Kendi

Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics and Big Business Re-Create Race in the Twenty-First Century

By Dorothy Roberts

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

By Robin DiAngelo

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America

By Khalil Gibran Muhammad

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement

By Wesley Lowery

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race

By Beverly Daniel Tatum

So You Want to Talk About Race

By Ijeoma Oluo

Between The World And Me

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

How to Be an Antiracist

By Ibram X. Kendi

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

By Richard Rothstein

Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland

By Jonathan M. Metzl

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

By Layla F. Saad

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

By Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America

By Peniel E. Joseph

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle

By Angela Davis

The Fire Next Time

By James Baldwin

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work

By Tiffany Jewell

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

By Malcolm X and Alex Haley

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michelle Alexander

WHERE TO GET INVOLVED & DONATE:

ACLU

Black Futures Lab

Black Lives Matter

Black Visions Collective

Campaign Zero

Center for Policing Equity

Communities United Against Police Brutality

Fair Fight

George Floyd Memorial Fund

Minnesota Freedom Fund

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Not in Our Town

Racial Justice Network

Reclaim the Block

Showing Up for Racial Justice

The Atlanta Solidarity Fund

The Bail Project

The Movement for Black Lives

The National Black Justice Coalition

Unicorn Riot

Watercolor painting by Nicholas Belton depicting the face of George Floyd, encircled by the words "Enough is Enough is Enough"

The Only Thing I Really Understand Is That I Do Not At All Understand

Enough is enough. It's time to listen and to do the work. George Floyd must not become another distant memory.

Yields:

No items found.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

Watercolor painting by Nicholas Belton depicting the face of George Floyd, encircled by the words "Enough is Enough is Enough"

The Only Thing I Really Understand Is That I Do Not At All Understand

Enough is enough. It's time to listen and to do the work. George Floyd must not become another distant memory.

Yields:

No items found.

Ingredients:

Instructions:

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