BLACK LIVES MATTER
CHANGE IS COMING
I had my Aha Moment.
While I never considered myself racist, I really did not understand the extent of systemic racism that is rampant in our society. Now I think I am on my way, and I believe our country is, too.
First for me was Ahmaud Arbury. I know, he was anything but first. There have been hundreds of black men and women killed because they were black, but this is the one that lead to my greater understanding of the issue. How can a jogger be run down and killed? How can the men not be immediately arrested? I couldn’t comprehend. I was appalled.
Then, second, Christian Cooper, a bird-watcher in Central Park. Amy Cooper, a dog walker he confronted for not having her dog on a leash, called the police and said a black man was trying to kill her. While he was filming her and standing more than six feet away. In New York. My former city, birthplace and melting pot of the world. Threatened by a professional white woman with a dog. I am a dog mom. I would never threaten someone for telling me to put my dog on a leash. And unthinkable that I would call 911 saying this man was trying to kill me? Are you kidding me? That is absurd. Who thinks like that? I was dumbfounded.
Christian Cooper is a Harvard graduate, on the board of Directors of the NYC chapter of Audubon. How ridiculously legit is he! But does that matter? What if he was an uneducated black man? He didn’t do anything wrong. I was, and am, disgusted that a white woman and rescue dog mom from NYC could act this way. We have so much in common. How is this possible? It made me sick.
And then in my city, Minneapolis. The murder of George Floyd by a police officer in my precinct. MY PRECINCT! And not just a murder, 8 minutes and 46 seconds of torture to an unarmed man as 3 other officers of the law watched. WTF! If George Floyd were white this wouldn’t happen. 1, 2, 3, AHA. This is what it took for me to realize that, while I genuinely believe there are more caring, dedicated police officers than not, something is incredibly wrong. All these times, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor… I heard the stories and knew these situations were wrong. But I didn’t understand to what extend the laws and systems were against the victims. Now I do or am beginning to. I am not alone.
We expect more from our teachers, pastors, scout leaders, doctors. Anyone entrusted to care for us. Shouldn’t we expect more from our police? Of all people, they have the ultimate responsibility of care. I know they put their lives in our hands every day. I am incredibly grateful. But they also have our lives in their hands. That is a responsibility, privilege, and honor. The punishment for abusing the power that we entrust in them should be greater, not less than every other citizen. If a black man held a white man down for 8 minutes while others watched, the prosecution would have been swift and strong.
I finally realized extreme change is needed.
A young black man walked into my volunteer site, where I work the front desk. He was there for an act of compassion, stemming from the protests in Minneapolis. We talked about the looting and destruction, which he was deeply against. It hurt his neighborhood. He wanted peaceful protest. Before this young man left, I got completely choked up with tears, barely getting the words out that I hope this is the tipping point of change. What if the police stopped this beautiful, compassionate young man, doing good for the world? It hit me that he must live in fear of this, or with consciousness of the possibility. I cried for days, distraught by the brutality in the home I love, in the precinct I live. I cannot look at a black man the same way. My heart hurts for what he must feel. It is good that I finally am waking up. I am a purpose-driven marketer. I care for the planet and animals. My goal in life is to make the world a better place. Of all people, I should have already been attuned to this.
OK, so now I get it. So what. Action is what changes the world. I see action all around me. From acts of kindness, hordes of people cleaning up the city and helping minority business owners get back on their feet, delivering food to the areas where their grocery stores were wiped out. And now, the beginning of much needed policy change. Is it defunding the police, abolishing the police department, changing laws? I am not sure. I just do not know enough, yet, to be definitive, other than the system is set up for failure and must be fixed. What do I think is the simplest and most important step we can take as individuals? VOTE! Make sure the people in power are the right people putting compassion and understanding before violence. Change is coming. We all must be this change.
George Floyd mural near where he was killed outside Cup Foods, Minneapolis
Painted by Xena Goldman, Greta McLain, and Cadex Herrera