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Earlier this week, I wrote a whole piece for the Nan-Cave to acknowledge the two year mark of the murder of George Floyd. That essay is below. But I cannot send this newsletter without acknowledging that yesterday, Tuesday, May 24th, there was yet another mass shooting in a school in a small town in Texas. 19 children were murdered, along with two teachers. By now you have all read or heard about it so I’m not telling you anything new. This horrific tragedy happened less than two weeks after innocent folks in Buffalo, New York were killed while grocery shopping by a man who acknowledged he was targeting a predominantly Black community. It’s happening everywhere. Too frequently. It’s too much.
I don’t care what side of the political fence you are on or what you believe. This isn’t politics. It’s a moral issue. I believe that, regardless of political affiliation, all humans want to feel safe and seen. All humans deserve to feel safe. Thoughts and prayers are not cutting it. And complacency makes all of us complicit in each of these crimes. We cannot keep accepting the status quo because the status quo is deadly. No one is safe. Our children are not safe. Our neighborhoods are not safe. We are not safe.
Over the years, by not speaking up and by not taking action we have allowed these horrible crimes to become political weapons. We are letting politicians manipulate us into inaction. And it must end. These crimes are preventable. We are not powerless. It is imperative that we start to use our power. We may not be able to align around political ideology but, for God’s sake can we align around the fact that our children are dying and that is not the country we want for them? Are we going to let our blind political hatred continue to have this horrible impact on our children? On the people we love? We need to force the hands of leaders in this country and we need to DO SOMETHING.
Today is the two-year mark of the murder of George Floyd. I started out calling it an anniversary, but that is a day we celebrate. That's not what this is. Today is a day we need to acknowledge and honor. It's a day that requires self-discovery and self-awareness.
It's a day when we really need to ask ourselves if we are showing up like allies.
I have slowly started traveling again for in-person speaking engagements all over the country. When I visit other cities and meet new people and they find out I live in Minneapolis, inevitably the conversation steers toward this tragic day in 2020. What I’ve come to realize is that much of the world is still waiting, watching, and wondering what Minneapolis is doing to change the climate of racism and violence that was magnified by the stories told in the wake of Mr. Floyd's murder. When people ask my thoughts on it, I don't know how to answer. In fact, there isn't an answer. I am ashamed that with the eyes of the country focused on us, we haven't taken advantage of this moment to move toward change. We have squandered a chance to be accountable and to lead.
Recently, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights released a report that confirmed the "...Minneapolis police department has engaged in a pattern of racial discrimination for at least a decade, including stopping and arresting Black people at a higher rate than white people, using force more often on people of color and maintaining a culture where racist language is tolerated." A state investigation proved what Black folks have been saying for years: our Black neighbors are targeted, abused, falsely arrested, discriminated against, profiled and even killed by the folks that are supposed to protect and serve the community. While that news was met with a collective gasp, most white folks in our community are still standing silent. Yet without us, without our authentic and active participation, real change will never happen. Black lives matter. And we cannot continue to ignore the need for real and systemic change. But what does that mean?
I am not another white lady claiming any kind of expertise in DEI or racial and cultural differences. I don't have any answers beyond how I’ve chosen to engage with anti-racist actions, and I don't share any of this from any kind of righteous place. But I am a human, a mom, a spouse, a member of my community and I feel deep sadness at our inability to do ANYTHING. So here goes…some of the things I do to stay active. It’s not perfect, but that’s not the point. White people, this message is for you, for all of us. We each have to do something and not let perfection get in the way of progress.
Of course some days I am guilty of hiding behind my whiteness–I am able to have a day, or many days, when I don't have to think about any of this. And I know that my Black friends and neighbors do not have the luxury of ever just living their lives. Every day, I ask myself how I can show up differently to push for the change that my friends, neighbors, and fellow Minnesotans deserve. Ask:
I took a page out of my own book when considering how we can all actively show up. One of the first chapters of my book is about 'owning your shit'. And that's where racial justice begins. We each need to really recognize how our actions, attitudes, and behaviors contribute to a world where BIPOC folks are not valued. It's important that we are consistently self-evaluating and really examining our own relationships with people of color. Take some time to examine your own prejudices and attitudes toward other races, and your interactions with persons of color. Ask:
I take the time to educate myself. No white person can assume that we understand the experiences of the Black, Indigenous, People of Color communities. The least we can do is dig into the very well documented history of racism in the US and research the history of slavery and race relations in this country. This is not a new issue. Many of us may be waking up to the depth and insidiousness of racism now, but that is due to our own negligence. Ask:
We must really come to terms with the impact white supremacy has had and continues to have on the systems within which we all work, live, and function. Don't shy away from words because they make you uncomfortable. I know so many people who resist the ideas of racism and white supremacy. But, just because they make you uncomfortable doesn't mean they don't have a tremendous impact on our communities. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is an opportunity for growth. And discomfort is nothing compared to the price our Black friends and neighbors pay every single day. Ask:
The stress and trauma of inequity and injustice is real and impacts Black and brown people physically, emotionally, and psychologically. It’s on us to understand how that may show up in behaviors and what we can do to support people if they're exhibiting signs of RBTS. This article shared a study that found each exposure to a police-killing of an unarmed Black person was associated with an additional 14 mental health days for Black respondents. Are you prepared to engage with people who are experiencing that? If you’re unsure, search “how to support people with racial trauma” and you will find myriad resources. That is something you can do right now to both better empathize and to be a better ally.
I want us to rally for the long haul and to prepare ourselves to participate in long-term and sustaining change. I want us–regardless of where you are, what state you live in–to try to do better. Simple behavior changes can contribute to positive movement. What can you do every day? How can you change how you engage to create a better world? We all deserve a better world and it has to start with small, measurable, daily actions that, over time, compound into systemic change that creates a better world for everyone.