The questions I’m asking my white self about #Alton Sterling and #Philando Castile
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. -Desmond Tutu
This post is for all my white friends and family who like my posts of pics of the kids but who do not like my posts about race.
You are my friends. You are my family.
I ask you to step into the shoes of our black brothers and sisters and ask yourself, how does it feel to know that at any moment for any reason or no reason at all you and the people you love are vulnerable to dying at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve us. Those whose salaries we pay with our hardearned dollars.
And then when the police execute black people, others whose job it is to hold them accountable, whose salaries we also pay with our hard earned dollars say
“no biggie. I feel you, I got you, you were scared, they scare me too! so take some time off, take your kids to Disney, and then come back to work. Your gun and badge and pension and health insurance are waiting for you.”
Think how maddening that is. How depressing and debilitating it is. To know how vulnerable you and your loved ones are at all times.
To know that you can shout ‘til your throat aches, march ‘til your feet bleed, and still NO ONE really seems to give a shit.
I ask you to think about Alton Sterling and Philando Castile as your brother, as your father, as your son, as your husband, as your friend and neighbor.
As valuable members of your community.
As people you love.
Think about your black relatives friends neighbors coworkers and community members.
Open your heart to their pain and to grieve with them. Pull them aside and say “you know I am really sorry for your pain. I am really sorry about white supremacy and my role in it and I am going to double down and do all I can to make things better. I am going to hold myself responsible for my role in perpetuating this shit and I am not going to shirk from my responsibility for ending it.”
If you don’t have any black people in your life, find some and initiate a friendship with them.
These are the questions I am asking myself about Alton Sterling’s and Philando Castile’s executions:
When is this going to stop?
But police executions are just the tip of the iceberg.
As I wrote post Charleston: “Racism thrives not only in these instances of extreme brutality that capture headlines and provoke our outrage; it’s permeated in deep and sometimes subtle ways throughout our society, in ways that are often much harder to see. It’s inscribed in our geography and culture and entrenched in our institutions and systems, including those that govern access to capital, education, employment, health care, philanthropy and justice. It exists among liberals as well as conservatives, in universities and corporations, in neighborhoods and houses of worship, in the North, South, East and West.
I ask my fellow white people, how much worse is it going to have to get before we take accountability for our racism and actively engage in dismantling it?”
This shit is not ending on its own folks. It’s not up to black folks to end it. It’s up to US.
In the end it is not the police who kill black people.
The police just have the guns and power to enforce our society’s overall disdain of black people.
That disdain originates with US, my white friends and family. That disdain is taught to us- and to them for that matter- every day of our lives with every breath we take.
The only ones who are capable of changing that is us. The only ones who can open our hearts and minds, to listen, to feel, to love, to care are us.
Until we- white people — change ourselves and boldly change every institution in our sphere of influence- including our elected officials- this shit is going to keep on happening.
The time for pointing the finger at those bad racists over there is over. The time for looking ourselves in the mirror is NOW.
What am I doing to make this stop?
Well in my case I have worked on myself A LOT to overcome my feelings of racial superiority. To listen. To listen ESPECIALLY when it’s hard and I don’t like what’s being said or how it’s being said. To build authentic caring relationships with people of color and to love them as my family.
But I don’t stop there. I focus on what I can do politically at the local level to hold police accountable. I attend meetings. I write blog posts. I visit my elected officials constantly. I testify and tweet at the Mayor, the Police Commission and the Board of Supervisors, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and CA Attorney General Kamala Harris and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. To Senator Boxer and Feinstein and Nancy Pelosi. To Governor Brown and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom.
I am a proud member of the #Justice4MarioWoods Coalition and a cofounder of San Franciscans for Police Accountability. You are welcome to join us.
I vote. And I let my public officials know why I voted or did not vote for them.
Because I want every public official to know that SFPD cannot execute black people and expect that no one will hold them accountable. That if our public officials refuse to hold them accountable we will replace them.
Please take a moment and write a list of 5 things you will do over the next month to work on yourself, your relationships with black people, and to express your views on this. And then do them.
Next question: what am I doing to ensure my kids are not perpetuating this shit?
Because that is exactly how white folks perpetuate racial inequality. When we have kids we move to nice neighborhoods with good schools with very few if any black or brown students. And we say we are not racist we are just seeking out the best for our kids. And our kids don’t observe us interacting with black and brown people because we don’t know any.
And when our kids don’t get into the colleges we think they deserve to get into we sue them. And when our kids get into trouble with the law we ask the judge to be lenient because “His life will never be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for twenty minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”
This is why I send my kids to a racially diverse public school where 56% of students receive free or reduced school lunch. And why they constantly meet my black and brown friends. And why they come to protests with me. And why we talk about police brutality and racism all the time.
Because this shit stops with US. We are not going to add to it.
Last question: Is what I am doing enough?
Clearly it is not. Clearly this shit keeps happening over and over and over.
So I am going to be bolder. I am going to be louder. I AM GOING TO GET IN YOUR FACE.
I ask you to ask yourselves the questions I am asking myself. And if in any way I can help you to answer them please reach out. I am here for you.
I ask you to share this post.
You may ignore this post. Shit may have to get much worse before you recognize your role in it.
Or you may say, the buck stops HERE.
I hope you make that choice. Because this shit is UNACCEPTABLE. I refuse to accept it. I refuse to be a part of it.
And I know that if I am silent, if I choose to look the other way, if I don’t struggle against it as actively as I can everyday, I am as deeply complicit in it as if I pulled the trigger myself.
I hope you feel that way too.