White People, Let’s Sit with our Fragility
Celebrate Juneteenth by Committing to Anti-Racism for the Rest of Your Life
In Kansas City, the police killed 28 people over 6 years. That’s more than 4 killings by police a year in my city.
Here is a map of places the police killed people over the years, you can search your city. .
In the US overall, Black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.
People are being shot and killed by police DAILY in the United States, and it doesn’t even make local news for more than a day. It shouldn’t matter if someone is a “suspect” or not. The police are not judge and jury. No one should be killed by police.
My friend KT and I participated in this Peacemaking Program in Syracuse, NY. The organization builds on traditional Native American approaches to justice, and focuses on healing and community responsibility rather than punishment on individuals.
A world without police is not impossible — it’s already happened before.
Tonight is Juneteenth which celebrates the day when the last people were freed from slavery in the US — 2 whole years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. I drove by the Juneteenth celebration down the street from me, but didn’t join. I didn’t feel like the space needed white bodies harshing the vibe, and while I wanted to celebrate, I also know that my presence as a white person changes the comfort level of BIPOC around (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color). I want this to be a comfortable and fun filled celebration for Black people in my city. Hopefully I will feel comfortable enough to join in the celebration in the future, but for now I feel I just need to keep doing the work as a white person.
I recently listened to a podcast episode by Codeswitch entitled, “Why Now, White People”. It talked about how white allies have not been vocal or present in my lifetime in the numbers we are seeing now. They discussed reasons contributing to the “why now?” question. They cited four years of trump as one: four years of white people practicing taking the streets in protest (i.e. through the women’s march, immigration activism, etc.) They also cited the fact that white people thought when other “respectable” presidents were leading the country, racism was taken care of by said president. Now that we have a blatantly racist president, white people are beginning to question the institution of the presidency, as well as all institutions in the US, including the police force. Also noted was the pandemic, the free time people now have at home to research issues and inform themselves, and also again their growing distrust of those in power as the government was powerless in helping people in the US stay safe from the pandemic and in fact many times put people in unnecessary risk. In relation to the pandemic, the masks that all are mandated to wear have come in very usefully when you are protesting and demonstrating in public. It’s easier when you have a bit of anonymity. Finally, it’s apparent we have just reached a critical mass with white people being fed up with seeing racist violence in the US. Before, white people either didn’t think it was their fight so stayed out of it, or else didn’t want to be the sole white person at the protest or on facebook taking a stand so stayed out of it. What we are seeing right now is the exact opposite, where it is shameful to not take a side anymore, and if you don’t take a side we see which side you are on.
At the end of the episode, Codeswitch hosts asked, “Once Trump is gone, will you still want to fight racism?”
While police are a problem, we as white people uphold that problem as a group of people. It’s time for us to really do some deep digging. And continue challenging our white views for the rest of our lives.
You’re never a “good ally”, you have to keep doing the work every day.
Photo credit: @malefragility
It’s important to sit with the contradictions and know we can never be perfect allies. We can only keep trying to do better.
It’s been two weeks of protests and “solidarity” for racial justice in the US, and two weeks seems about the length of time that things can remain fairly simple. Now we’re getting into the messy work, the real work, of actually putting our actions where our words were. Let’s do this. Let’s change the country we live in together.