I’ve written this post before, and I know I’ll write it again, and I think that knowledge is largely why I feel exhausted by the thought of writing it all down now.
That exhaustion is my privilege. I’m a white woman living in a country that was built for the success and safety of white people. So I get to feel exhausted and change the channel or close my laptop and get on with my day.
You know the story by now: George Floyd was murdered by a pig named Derek Chauvin, who spent 18 years with the Minneapolis Police Department. As Chauvin compressed Floyd’s carotid artery by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes, three other Minneapolis police officers—Thomas Lane, Tou Thao, and J Alexander Kueng—took turns standing idly by and doing nothing and kneeling on George Floyd’s back.
Now George Floyd is dead. George Floyd is dead because this is a country with a criminal justice system that is stacked from bottom to top to not only to give a pass to those in positions of law enforcement, but to ensure that the lives of Black people living in America are filled with as much trauma and as many obstacles to success—and I mean success on every level, not only economic—as possible.
That’s how this country works. That’s how it’s worked from the day the very first disease-ridden, colonizing looters arrived in Jamestown to the day George Floyd called out for his mother as he lay dying in the street outside a grocery store in Minneapolis.
That’s how this country worked when Eric Garner had the life choked out of him by a cop after being accused of selling a loose cigarette. That’s how this country worked when Trayvon Martin was murdered by a man who only wished he was a cop while walking in his own neighborhood. That’s how it worked when Sandra Bland died in a jail cell after a routine traffic stop. That’s how it worked when Philando Castile was shot by a cop seven times a point blank range after being pulled over for a having a broken taillight. That’s how it worked when Breonna Taylor was shot eight times by cops with a no-knock warrant that turned up nothing. And that’s how it worked when 12-year-old Tamir Rice decided to play with a toy gun at a park and was murdered by a cop within two seconds of arriving on the scene.
This post would be many times longer if I kept going with the names of Black individuals who have had their lives needlessly taken from them at the hands of police (and former police, and people cosplaying as police), and then that list would multiply exponentially if we knew the names of the thousands upon thousands of Black lives lost before the era of cell phone cameras. And what if we were to factor in all of the instances of brutality? The list would never end. On and on and on and on.
And for what, exactly?
It’s not just about maintaining the myth of a society where “law and order” reign supreme. No, it’s about maintaining the entire structure of a society that was built on land stolen from the indigenous and built on the backs of the enslaved. It’s about maintaining white power, in every sense of those words.
It doesn’t begin and end with police brutality. It extends to every aspect of Blackness in America, from the school-to-prison pipeline to healthcare to Jim Crow to redlining to voting access to hairstyles to advertising to literature to education to entertainment to housing to just walking down the fucking street and existing. And I have the gall to say I’m exhausted? I need to shut up.
This is a deeply racist country, and that did not begin with the sociopathic white supremacist who currently holds the office of President of the United States of America. And no, it will not end when Trump eventually leaves the White House, whether by election or force or death. It will not end until we break down the entire system and start over. No amount of photos of cops hugging protestors will lead to systemic change.
If you’re white, you need to take some time to think about what it means to have gone through your life with the basic privilege of having the skin color you do. Whether you grew up in poverty or with a medical condition or with any kind of other hindrance to success—Black people in America face those things, too, and in greater numbers than anyone else. And they do it while being the target of so many forms of racism on every step of the ladder. Your whiteness alone has been your advantage. Don’t ever forget that. It’s not about whether your ancestors owned slaves. Your existence as a white person in America benefits from 400 years of Black oppression.
This is not a post about what to do. There are plenty of those out there, and if you care enough to take action—whether through protesting, taking political action, donating to groups supporting protestors, changing your buying habits, making sure your children grow up to be actively anti-racist, or any of the other countless ways you can affect change—you’ll find that information. This post is me asking you to stop and THINK. To put aside defensiveness and move past your exhaustion and put some serious thought into what kind of society you want to live in.
BLACK LIVES MATTER. BLACK DREAMS MATTER. BLACK FUTURES MATTER. BLACK MEN MATTER. BLACK WOMEN MATTER. BLACK ARTISTS MATTER. BLACK WRITERS MATTER. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
*ETA: A loved one brought something up with me after reading this post, and I want to address it. I recognize that not everyone reading this post is Black OR white. There are a mélange of races and colors and religions and cultures and combinations of all of the above who live in America, and the experiences of each of these groups are unique and valid. I recognize that Black people are not the only casualties of racism in this country, just as I recognize that the perpetuation of Black-targeted racism is not limited to white people. Know that I see you. That said, I do not feel equipped to speak to anyone but white people when it comes to calling out systemic racism, because I can never understand what it means to be on the other side of that line.