As a white-presenting woman who doesn’t identify as white (I’m half Iranian), and who grew up in the intensely white-normative Milwaukee, WI, I watch what’s going on in Minn/St. Paul with a painfully familiar brew of feelings, dominated by, “When will white folks wake the fuck up?”
There is a special flavor of racism in the Midwest that is especially crazy-making because it is so widespread, so deep, so normalized. The level of segregation is insane and so many regular Wisconsinites don’t even see it. It’s like “White Supremacy with Extra Gaslighting.”
I haven’t lived there since college so I can’t say from firsthand everyday experience what it’s like now, but I can easily imagine the levels of pain and anguish in the communities of color in my hometown and demographically similar cities like Minneapolis/St. Paul.
And I can hear echoes of the voices I heard all through my childhood from the white suburbanites who like clockwork are now, I’m 100% certain, talking about looting or fires or welfare moms or any of the long list of tropes they always short-circuit to, when POC demand justice.
I felt heartened to hear the press conference by Tim Walz, the MN governor today. I don’t know anything about him, but what I heard him say was that restoring order was necessary to address the real issue at hand, which is the systemic racism faced by the communities of color in MN. As governor of course he’s obligated to call for order to be restored, but he made it clear that the main priority is addressing social justice and systemic racism. It remains to be seen if words translate to action, but the priorities seemed on point.
Anyway, I hope this latest episode results in at least a few more white and white-presenting folks scrapping their blinders to white supremacy and speaking out and demanding #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd.
Sharing our voices and perspectives about white supremacy and injustice for communities of color is important, but it’s not enough. A great place to start an action plan is to make a conscious effort to broaden our sources of information, especially to include voices of POC. Here is a list of writers, articles and resources to help you deepen your understanding of what is happening and turn your anguish into action. (Many thanks to Lisa Barrow for her great additions to this list.)
(Note: There are sooooo many great POC and WOC on Twitter; my list below includes just a couple of my favorites. Twitter is a great platform for voices speaking about politics and justice, and I highly encourage white peeps to look for and follow POC there to expand your worldview.)
- Chelsea Sanchez offers info and resources in Here’s How You Can Demand Justice for George Floyd, including links to donate to groups assisting protesters and other aspects of the cause, as well as to contact lawmakers and sign petitions.
- So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo illuminates modern race issues from many angles including the school-to-prison pipeline, intersectionality, “model minorities” and more. She also posts extensively on Twitter.
- Nikole Hannah-Jones has been covering civil rights issues for The New York Times since 2015, and in 2020 won a Pulitzer Prize for her landmark work on The 1619 Project. Follow her on Twitter.
- Bree Newsome is an artist and activist who gained recognition in 2015 when she climbed the flagpole in front of the South Carolina Capitol building and lowered the confederate battle flag. She is active on Twitter where she deconstructs current events to shed light on the structures of systemic racism.
- Ben Crump is the lawyer for George Floyd’s family, and wrote a powerful op-ed in the Washington post. “It’s a moment for all Americans to take a hard look in the mirror, change themselves and demand change from their institutions. Only then will we be able to breathe again.”
- Licensed mental health counselor Jor-El Caraballo shares insights and helpful practices in How to Cope With Race-Based Trauma in Teen Vogue. His advice mirrors the social media posts/pleas of many POC asking for well-meaning folks (especially non-POC) to stop sharing images of black people being subjected to violence. “Seeing videos like Arbery’s killing or reading the news of Breonna Taylor’s death is exposure to trauma for Black people. … Yes, videos create awareness. However, we have to be mindful about the negative mental health impact of seeing a senseless killing play out right in front of our eyes.”
- For a good ironic take, read Michael Harriot’s The Angry Black Person’s Guide to Protesting Like Good White People: “Step 5: Don’t loot or riot. For God’s sake, don’t destroy people’s hard-earned businesses and property. Don’t act like you’re a Baltimore thug… Or like a white guy whose team has just won the World Series or the Stanley Cup. Or a ‘very fine’ Nazi.”