By now you’ve all heard about and likely seen the death- sorry– murder of George Floyd. It has all but consumed the internet.
We watched a man who was completely incapacitated cry for his mother. We watched him struggle to breathe. We watched him beg. And ultimately, we watched him die.
And now we are watching the United States erupt into a hellfire of rage and disbelief and outright desperation at an issue that is neither new nor quiet.
And so of course the internet has dismantled into a series of posts displaying the protest, the response, and the riots. Everywhere you look there are photos of the carnage and the violence. Our neighbours to the south have literally torched themselves in protest of the racial injustices and inequalities that continue to persist generation after generation.
It’s interesting to see people suddenly so fucking horrified at the blatant violence and looting. Where was that same horror at the everyday violence that people of colour face? Everybody seems to suddenly give a shit when physical things are being destroyed, but our fucks were all using vacation days when people of colour and other marginalized groups faced violent discrimination and hurdles just to be recognized as equal humans deserving of equal rights, or to simply exist. Think about your reaction to the violence that is erupting. Are you angry about it? Are you afraid for your well being? Now pretend that you have felt that discomfort and fear your entire life and try for a minute to understand the desperation that is the root cause of what you are seeing.
As a white woman, my perspective is this:
My perspective doesn’t get a fucking vote. It doesn’t get a seat at the table. I don’t get to decide what is appropriate and what is not. I don’t get to judge the response to systemic racism and violence against individual people of colour. I don’t get to say “well, you see, Barbara, if only they had just tried talking to their representatives and writing some nice letters explaining that it isn’t ok to kneel on a man’s neck until he dies.”
My perspective isn’t really worth shit. If you aren’t living this as a person of colour, yours doesn’t really mean shit either.
I do know this. People of colour are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They peacefully protest, they are met with rubber bullets, tear gas and riot gear. Public figures make a statement and they are accused of being unpatriotic and traitors. Folks beg for their lives, they get killed.
If you are a white person living in this world, you need to place your rage in the correct arena. If we had been half as interested in the social injustices occurring everyday as we are in the violent response to George Floyd’s death, we might have figured some of this out before anyone had to light the world on fire to get our fucking attention.
If we want to be allies, and we want to support or ignite change, we need stop *reacting* to the reactions of folks who are so desperate to be heard and take the time to hear them before they are screaming. If we want to be allies, we need to accept their experiences as truth and stop trying to invalidate their experience away.
Our perspective as white people should just be:
We should have listened before, but we hear you now.