We had a signal in 2016. Vote. Don’t take a chance. Don’t run that risk.
We failed to show up.
We have seen violence exacted on people of color again and again. We’ve watched with horror, yet remained silent.
We failed to speak up.
We witnessed the divisive acts of this administration. We were told to wait it out. It won’t be that bad. We waited too long.
We failed to act.
We have made mistake after mistake, failure after failure. We have turned a blind eye and kept our mouths shut. But that ended with the life of George Floyd. The wave of pain and frustration flooded every corner of this country, and the scream that came with it bellowed:
We must change. Right now.
We don’t have a choice in this matter. The change is here. It’s happened in a moment when millions of Americans are jobless and millions more are staying home because we are in the middle of a pandemic. The American people are able to take to the streets in numbers never before seen in our history. Not just once or twice but in double-digit days. And those who are not protesting are watching. We are all bearing witness. The world took notice. The world is demanding justice, not only for Mr. Floyd, but for themselves.
There is no going back.
Peaceful protests were turned into police riots when officers began attacking citizens. These protestors were already risking their lives by being in crowds during the pandemic, only to risk physical harm by being attacked by those who were sworn to protect and serve. In their rage, officers forgot cameras are everywhere. We watched them exercising brutality without cause. Their violence can no longer be downplayed or misrepresented as self-defense. We clearly see what has been hidden for too long.
For just shy of nine minutes, George Floyd was held down with a knee to his neck. Four officers murdered a man who was unarmed and cooperative, who warned he could not breathe, who called out for his dead mother. It’s believed that for four of those minutes, Mr. Floyd was dead. For 526 seconds, not one of those four officers bothered to check on his well-being. If not for the young woman brave enough to film Mr. Floyd’s murder, this would have been another BIPOC death in police custody declared justified.
This happened after Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home.
This happed after Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down while on a run.
This happened after Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Sandra Bland. After Rodney King’s beating. After the assassinations of Malcolm X and Dr. King. After innumerable acts of violence and hundreds of years of injustice. We can stand no more.
Some people saw protests. Others saw riots. Too many focused on looting. What we saw and are seeing is the long-awaited evolution. Revolution that is so overdue. Take a moment to watch author Kimberly Jones powerfully and passionately explain:
For a country that believes in freedom, equality is a component of that which has long been missing. It is time to bring this country together on an equal field. To love and truly care for each other, as Americans. As brothers and sisters. As one.
We’re taught that politics are not part of polite conversation. We are media-trained to keep our political beliefs away from our public personae. That’s wrong. That’s how to keep bigotry hidden, the polite racism that abounds around us. The quiet part kept quiet. I want you to know who I am. I want you to understand what I believe.
I am antiracist. I believe Black Lives Matter. I want this change. I wish it had happened much sooner. I am enraged. I am heartbroken. I was quiet for too long, even when I was speaking out.
I tolerated racists in my life—as friends, as employers. It could be excused as, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” But that’s a cop-out.
Since 2016, I have been dismissing those people from my life. Sometimes quietly, more often loudly pointing out their racism before the ties were severed. It was sadly surprising to see how the election freed people to show their bigotry. But, in some ways, it was good—now I see you clearly. Now I can’t ignore that ugliness. Now, there’s no excuse. Better to be exposed so it could be called out.
I also have to examine my colorblindness. It’s problematic yet we were made to feel it was evolved and right. How it presents for me is seeing my BIPOC friends through my lens and my experience, forgetting theirs is unimaginably different and failing to open the conversation about it. It’s embarrassing and disrespectful, and only shows the blindness of my white privilege. That will change.
I will continue to point out racism each time I see it. I will no longer love the sinner unconditionally. That sin must be cleansed. I am not worried about how that will affect me as a private person or publicly as an independent author, or how that may lessen my audience. That is so unimportant.
Another small step I’ve taken is to boycott Facebook and Instagram until Mark Zuckerberg changes his policy to enforce community standards equally, removing posts that are racist and incite violence, even if those come from the President of the United States, and to ban abusive users, even if that includes the President of the United States. [The fact that this even needs to be requested makes my stomach turn.] I am nowhere near an influencer, so my impact will be that of a grain of sand. But you cannot expect a company to change if you continue to use its services. It’s easy to stay on those platforms because that’s where your friends are/your audience is, and it took a long time to cultivate that crowed. Your livelihood might be tied to it, too. And you know, so what? By staying engaged, you are allowing a racist to keep to his ways and make him even richer. I say, use your influence more wisely.
I breakdown social media like a high school quad: Facebook is for folks who want to be popular; Instagram is for those who think pretty is important; Twitter is where the bookish kids and rebels hang out. It’s smarter. It’s harder. It’s better. If you think you’re making social change on Facebook or Instagram, when was the last time a Facebook meme did anything (except cause arguments)? What you’re typically re-posting is something that came from Twitter. Not that Twitter is perfect by any stretch; it’s trying to be better, though. Twitter is where you’ll find me, being angry and occasionally funny, and sharing information from people much wiser than me. Please connect with me there. If you’re new to it, @ me and I’ll help you out.
If you’re brave enough, maybe leave Facebook and Instagram for the rest of June, or all of July, or maybe until it changes. (I haven’t been on my personal Facebook for about two years now. Trust me, you won’t miss it.) That company needs to change. It’s time for it to evolve. It has to. But that chance will only occur if you force it.
Find a way to make a stand because the time to take action is now. Every moment of every day from now until we have made reform.
We had high hopes for 2020. Not even halfway through it, and we have been knocked over by it again and again and again. Today, we are standing up stronger. Today, we can again have hope for 2020. It is up to us to recreate the city/state/country we call home.
We have five months until the election, another seven before we have a new president in the White House. We cannot wait. We must show up. We must speak up. We must act. We must change.
We must. Right now.