It’s been tough to maintain my silence over the past several months as I’ve had to remind hands down well over 400 people – white and black but mostly white – that the Black Lives Matter movement was not born in 2020. And, that we are not protesting George Floyd; however, the death of George Floyd.
The murder of George Floyd by former police officer Derek Chauvin pushed the BLM movement into overdrive. The world watched as the video of Chauvin’s act circulated social media and television news. In essence, the senseless murder forced a number of folks who previously looked away, to tune in and join the movement. It would no longer be politically correct or advantageous to be silent. For if you remained silent after “8-4-6,” a symbol denoting the killing – no murder of an unarmed black male– of seeing a black man, regardless of what he may have been accused of doing – if you remained silent about issues of importance, then you are simply just as guilty, if not more, than the perpetrator.
But the death of Breonna Taylor, which occurred shortly before Floyd’s murder, is another recent example of a wrongful murder of a Black American by police. A case of mistaken identity resulting in murder is not just inexcusable, it is damn right wrong. It didn’t need to happen, but the fact that almost 150 days have passed since Taylor was killed, and her killers have yet to be arrested, is another testament to systemic racism, a blatant form of it.
The much-needed resurgence of the BLM movement can be attributed to these murders by police. Considering all of the recent police brutality that has taken place, the reasoning for the protests is founded. The protests have, however, popped up in two forms. Notably, in the New York City suburb of Long Island, peaceful protests were organized throughout the end of May and all throughout the month of June.
But in Washington, D.C., President Trump utilized tear gas in an attempt to clear once-peaceful protesters away from the White House – an example of a protest that did not start out as violent but ended in horror. But, 45 has repeatedly shown us who he is since the very beginning, and as opposed to reminiscing on the past, we must stay deliberately focused on the future. And, change – true substantive change will have to be grassroots coupled with strong leadership. In New York City, NYPD officers drove trucks into crowds of peaceful protesters, which led to more violence on the part of the protesters. Critics of protests that started violent called for peace, but a counter-argument can be made that Colin Kaepernick tried to protest peacefully by taking a knee, and that didn’t work.
While protests have made headway in the quest for progress toward true racial equality, I think we all will agree that there is still much work that remains and must get done.
So, now what?
Dialogue in the home
Families must address the topic of race with their children. The age of “I don’t see color” is over, and that oblivious phrasing is no longer sufficient or acceptable. White children must be made aware of systemic racism as well as its deep-rooted history in the United States, to the extent that they are able to comprehend it.
However, dialogue in the home cannot stop with dialogue between parents and children. White adults must examine their consciences for implicit biases. Such an examination can be highly effective through dialogue with peers who will demand accountability. They must also keep in mind that there is always more to learn about how to be a better ally to the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) community. And, if they don’t know, they must ask. It is okay to say, I don’t know what I need to know. This allows for authentic learning to occur. But remaining silent cannot be an option. The action is in having the conversations, and the subsequent actions must be to get involved in the movement and to call out injustices when you see them occur as opposed to looking the other way.
Dialogue at work
Peer dialogue among adults must continue at work. However, this has to be with an understanding that BIPOC colleagues are not responsible for educating their white counterparts. It is not fair to a person of color to believe they can speak for all members of their race and/or ethnicity. All black opinions are not identical. It must be incumbent upon supervisors to ensure conversations are being held throughout all levels of an organization and with all employees about the importance of being anti-racist. Policies calling for zero-tolerance of racist language and behavior, with clear-cut consequences, must be written and enforced. It has to start at the top of the organization and permeate throughout for impact, sustainability, and coherence. The action is in having the conversations, and the subsequent actions must be to establish anti-racist policies and ensure fairness in hiring and promotion for all employees. In addition, many employers have already stepped up to show their commitment, but all employers must get involved in the movement and alleviate injustices not exacerbate them, directly or indirectly.
Dialogue on social media
Whether in all out in front with who are so individuals can gain context or hiding behind the veil of a pseudonym, social media is nothing short of a hotbed for arguments with others, mostly strangers, about political and human rights issues. Here are two rules that accomplish activism and advocacy while still maintaining a semblance of self-care:
- Call in, don’t call out.
It is the responsibility of anti-racists to denounce racism when encountering it. However, even in the cases of the most bigoted folks, try to make points with kindness and with education in mind. Many people just don’t know. Again, that is the first step for true learning, but there also are several who might not want to know. Know what or whom you’re dealing with so you can govern yourself accordingly.
- Know when it’s okay to end an argument. Sadly, there are folks who will never heed the message of anti-racism. And, they don’t want to for whatever albeit personal reason. When an individual is closed to learning and growing, the end is near on multiple levels. There are so many individuals who want to engage in this work, therefore let’s focus on energies on those individuals. Of course, it is important to make attempts to call in, but if several attempts are met with perpetual and unfortunate ignorance to put it bluntly, move on -- and put your energy for anti-racism to work elsewhere.
The action is in having the conversations via our social media channels respectfully, and the subsequent actions must be to get involved in the movement and to call out injustices everywhere as there is power in numbers.
The work toward true racial equality in the United States cannot end with the deaths of
George Floyd and Breonna Taylor or with our conversations on police reform. The death of Ahmaud Arbery shows us why we can’t stop there as there are so many other factors that must be included in the dialogue and subsequent action to continue the quest for racial equality across the globe. Dialogue will continue to bring the movement forward and inspire all who are fighting against systemic racism to never give up standing up for what is right, but we must move deliberately and swiftly toward subsequent actions or we will look back and realize that we are no further steps forward than before 8-4-6 happened. In fact, too much delay could easily put us to where we are further behind.