Waking Up to White Privilege

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Waking Up to White Privilege

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As a white person I have struggled with how to express myself in this difficult, historic time.
Ultimately what I say doesn't matter as much as any Person of Color in this moment, because when I think I understand, i can't possibly.
The only thing I think I can contribute that is my place to say, is to express some thoughts to other white people in this moment about what this moment means.
It's no longer enough to not be racist. A lot of us have hung our hats on "not seeing color" or treating people equally regardless of their race. Weve been making those steps for 60 years as a nation, and the slow March of forward progress has only made actual racists hide behind more obscure symbolism and made white people feel better about themselves. Every white person who wants to consider themselves "good" in this moment, now has a responsibility to attack and drive out racism. And every white person who tries to say racism isnt that bad or isnt the real problem now, needs to be confronted with the fact they are making it worse.
You cant compare police killing statistics to black on black crime. Doing so ignores the fact that a deep distrust of the police born from centuries of abuse and persecution has made minority communities vulnerable to criminal influence as good people are afraid to call the cops because the cops might be worse than criminals they need protecting from.
You cant say all lives matter. Because, 1) no shit. And 2) people are trying to lift up the most abused segment of our population, and doing so will raise the tide for all people. Sure there is that incident where a white person was beaten or killed by cops. That's why BLM and other movements are asking for things like independent review of all complaints and incidents not just those affecting minorities. There are a million reasons why AllLivesMatter is not appropriate and diminishes the moment. Feel free to PM me if you want to discuss this, but that conversation distracts the conversation from constructive discourse to have to have in public.
You can't say protesting is causing division in this country. Black people are asking to be seen and heard, they are asking you to better understand their experience, their fear and their pain. If you are refusing to acknowledge that experience, or somehow invalidate it because you have never seen it, you are the one causing division. Citing the looting or rioting as causing this "division" is a whole separate issue. For this point I will just say, you can't equate protesting with the looting and rioting, they are different things.
You can condemn looting. But instead of just using it as a reason to dismiss or act against protestors, you have to look at what is actually going on. There are multiple different types of looting and rioting going on. Some is a response to police meeting peaceful protest with more violence and oppression. This is the anger and the burning. Like when one child hits another and the second child bites in response. Neither is ok, you don't excuse the first child hitting because the response may have been worse. Violence begets violence, and places where curfews have been rolled back and protestors have not been met with police, protests have remained peaceful and people have danced in the streets. The other type of looting is what happened in Fairfield and Vallejo, with looting without protest, the stealing. This is horrible, and criminal, but also a clear sign the system has been ineffective at improving or protecting our communities and has created safe spaces for criminal elements created by their community fearing Police brutality more than the criminal elements also terrorizing them. Protestors arent saying that looting is ok, and looting shouldn't in any way diminish their message. Looting should be condemned, but also think about what the looting means and how it serves as proof the protestors are right. People loot when teams and cities win or lose sports championships every year, there are unsavory elements that will take advantage every chance they get. If anything protestors want to improve their communities so looting doesnt happen again. Looting is horrible and absolutely should be condemned, but it a symptom of the underlying problem far more than a product of protests, and is being used as an excuse to set curfews in place to justify breaking up protests unlawfully.
You cant joke about Covid. People protesting during a pandemic doesnt mean they dont take it seriously or it isnt a problem. It means the moment is so big, people are willing to take on another layer of danger in unrest because they dont know when they will have this moment again.
You need to demand more of your police. A good cop is no longer one that doesnt beat or abuse people, it's one who reports or acts against the abuses by others. Sadly cops who do that are driven out of forces and departments. If we want to talk about places like Camden, NJ, where they disbanded their Police department and rebuilt it with all local officers, officer involvement in the community, and they are actually seeing reductions in crime as well as Public approval of the police department, thats a good conversation to have, and something worth praising and commending. Dont post pictures of officers kneeling, 2 days ago Buffalo, NY officers kneeled, and 24 hours later in the same location, the same officers nearly killed a peaceful 75 year old man. Officers kneeling with protestors has been compared to an abusive boyfriend apologizing before beating you again 2 weeks later. We need change not gestures. A reform of our police system benefits the good cops as much as the victims of the bad cops, as they will be able to protect and serve their community the way they wanted to when they became cops, instead of fearing reprisal for speaking up or stopping abusive officers.
You need to educate yourself on what protestors are facing. The police brutality in these times in coming in overwhelming waves. This brutally is causing protests to escalate into panic or riots, which then creates the safe space for the criminal element to loot. I suggest if you can stomach unsettling images you check out the Twitter thread I'm going to link. It started with a lawyer documenting 10 instances of unjustified police brutality or abuses of rights in the first day and a half of protests, 6 days in it's over 300 videos.
You need to understand the basics of what is being asked for. There is so much hurt and anger,and a lot of people only see hashtags like #defundthepolice or #abolishthepolice and think it's ridiculous we need cops. Some of it is exaggeration, some of it is just more nuanced. The basic things people want come down to. 1) Independent review. Instances of police brutality and killings are investigated and determined lawful or not by District Attorneys who work with the same officers on a daily basis and are dependent on their cooperation to do their job, as well as seek re election. This is the definition of conflict of interest, an independent office of some sort needs to do this work. 2) police funding needs to change. Police budgets are insanely large portions of local government spending, with ridiculous amounts spent on military grade equipment and way too little spent on things like social workers and drug counseling. Our communities are better served trying to better them than to punish them. Both in efficiency and quality of life. 3) elimination of qualified immunity. When a cop violates someone's civil rights and isnt even charged, the city often still loses a civil lawsuit (because civil rights were violated) the city or municipality ends up liable for the damages, not the police department or the offending officer. This further depletes resources for the community at large and is a further part of the plea to "hold police accountable". If doctors are liable for their own mistakes, why arent police departments? Why does seeking restitution for crimes against you make your community's schools, social programs or arts suffer, and not the actual entity that committed the crime?
You need to see how it's working. The state of Colorado, the city of Portland, and the city of Minneapolis are making massive changes to their police programs. The LAPD budget is under review with hundreds of millions of dollars potentially being diverted to other community improvement. The officers were all arrested and charged, that happened because people werent satisfied each step along the way. And that doesnt mean the final goal is accomplished, there are hundreds of other civil rights violations and abuses new and old that have not seen justice. These protests will get stronger and stronger until that wave of change spreads, and as certain government parties respond with more force, more people will be outraged and join the protests.
There is a lot there, and so much more I havent even touched. If anyone wants to discuss these points privately, without judgement, feel free to message me. My biggest regret right now is all my life I have tried to be a good friend to the people of color in my life, but I have failed because I have not done enough to be a good Ally, what they actually deserved. But this moment isn't about me or any other white persons guilt, it is about what we will do now to step up and fix an obviously broken system.

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This item was submitted on June 25, 2020 by Dana Bell using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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