Last weekend, I wrote up some questions to ask for my next Midday with Matt video chat. The topic was race relations in the United States. On my mind were the recent stories of Ahmaud Arbery, murdered by two armed white men while jogging in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, an EMT who was shot in her bed by police in Kentucky (they were trying to apprehend a suspect who didn’t live there and who, it was later revealed, was already in custody when the raid occurred).
Within 48 hours, when the panel convened, the news of George Floyd was just coming out. Juxtapose the initial reports of his death with the video that emerged. As one of my guests, Kenny, pointed out during our talk, now that most people have video cameras in their pockets, at least we can catch some of these bad actors. But over the years how many went unnoticed? What happens when there is nobody around to record?
The statistics are clear: our country’s law enforcement and legal systems have a race issue. Black people are drastically overrepresented, compared to the general population statistics. It’s unacceptable and we need to do something about it.
No, not every cop is a bad one–but when a Black person calls the police, or has the police called on them, how do they know who’s going to respond? Racism is designed into the system itself. So, we need to speak up and work together to change the system.
And finally, I know some people will ask: But what about the riots? Surely those aren’t right? I firmly support the right to protest. I don’t agree with violence or looting. But that includes violence by the police against protestors. And it’s also part of my privilege as a White person. I will never fully understand what it’s like to be a Black person in America. What I can imagine is bad enough. But I can also stop imagining and just go back to my daily life. I’ve noticed that many of the same people decrying the current protests also derided Colin Kaepernick for peacefully taking a knee to try to bring attention to the same issue.
If we address and resolve the problem of racism, there will be no need for protests. And if there are no protests, there will be no rioting or looting. Recently, I’ve noticed White people voicing negative attitudes toward police because they are enforcing rules that prohibit us from getting haircuts or eating in at restaurants. So anger and outrage over the extrajudicial murder of one of our fellow human beings shouldn’t be so hard to comprehend.
One thing that can help is conversations with people who have different perspectives than we do. In that spirit, I offer this discussion with some of my friends who were kind enough to chat with me about their lived experiences.