We have so much respect for Christine Margiotta and her leadership in the fight for racial justice and equity. After reading her piece last week we had to share it with you, and didn’t feel like it could wait. The pain, power and resonance in her words and thoughts are profound, real, and necessary.
“By now, you likely know the name George Floyd, a Black man murdered by police in Minneapolis (read background & police response to protesters). You may have also heard about the incident with Amy Cooper in Central Park, a white woman who called the police on Christian Cooper, a Black man who asked her to comply with the park requirement to put her dog on a leash (read more here).
You may want to jump to action or even turn away, but I encourage you to challenge these impulses. The guidance below is similar to what I shared with last year’s anti-racism cohort, in the wake of another incident of domestic terrorism.
BE: Be with your emotions. Notice your reaction – anger? shock? shame? frustration? grief? Sometimes we leap to action to disconnect from the discomfort of our feelings. That’s white dominant culture – encouraging us to take a quick action and feel relief, but if it were that easy, racism would’ve ended a long time ago. Feeling is the critical first step in the continual “waking” for those of us who are white.
REFLECT: While it may be tempting to share disdain for Amy Cooper’s actions, let’s first look at how the elements of white supremacy that she is steeped in are also within us. This reminds me of Robin DiAngelo’s good/bad binary – where we label her as bad to distance ourselves, so we can be “good.” The hard work is looking within. This powerful piece by Tamika Butler shares guiding questions for your reflection.
LEARN: Seek to understand the history of racial terror in law enforcement. The prevailing narrative often blames these incidents on the bad behavior of individuals, rather than acknowledging the racism and power inherent in the systems these individuals leverage. Learning about the historic and current terror in our criminal justice system is central in guiding our actions.
ACT: Reflect on the many ways you can be a part of shifting systems that have done tremendous harm. Black Lives Matter LA is leading a movement for a “People’s Budget” which pushes on the reality that 54% of our City’s funds are spent on the police force. Learn more here, and lend your voice to questioning the power and resources of law enforcement. Consider contributing to local organizations advocating for alternatives to our current criminal justice system, including CURB & Initiate Justice, two of our Accelerator leaders doing profound work in this area.
As you continue to reflect, I’ll leave you with these words from Alicia Garza and Rachel Cargle.
From Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter:
“I’ve gotten a lot of questions about what we can do right now. First, Black people are exhausted. I’m exhausted. Angry. Devastated. Scared.
There is not *one* easy thing you can do right now to make you or anyone else feel better about the fact that this country allows black people to be hunted and killed like animals. There is not *one* easy thing you or anyone else can do to make this go away. I try really hard not to be enraged at these kind of inquiries. Protest for too many is a performance for someone else’s benefit – rest assured people are not facing tear gas to perform for you. They are sick and tired of being stripped of humanity and no one doing anything. Ending police violence is a long game. It takes organizing. Protest to up the ante. Public and private pressure. Electoral organizing strategies. Telling new stories about us and what we are fighting for. Imagine holding all that and watching as time and time again a black life is extinguished before our eyes, and the laws protect the killers. So when I say change the laws and change the people who make them, I’m serious about this. Police should be held accountable for crimes they commit. So should this country. I don’t have easy answers for you. And honestly I want us to stop looking for them and start supporting the organizing work people are doing and have been doing.”
From Rachel Cargle, anti-racist academic, writer, & lecturer:
“Dear white people,
I’m tired of hearing you say:
‘I can’t believe this’
‘I had no idea’
‘This can’t be real’
That is in all actuality wildly offensive that our pain is so far off of your radar that the mention of it shocks you. It’s actually hurtful to know that the news that’s been keeping me up at night hasn’t even been a topic of conversation in your world.
Instead when I keep you informed on the blatant abuse, racism and trauma happening to women of color and their families I need to hear:
‘I’ve found an organization that helps in these types of instances and I’ve donated money’
‘I’ve brought this topic up to my coworkers and family so we can talk through what’s happening’
‘I’ve researched more on this and I have learned more about the history of this particular race issue we have in our country’
Your shock isn’t enough. Your wow isn’t solidarity. Your actions are the only thing I can accept at this point.”
I’m here with you as we continue to walk forward, and I appreciate your open-heartedness, your willingness to be, and your commitment to act.”