The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis is upsetting in large part because we've seen this movie over and over again, and it sucks.
I've resisted writing about this for the last few years, because I've felt like I'm just another white guy with an opinion. But every time something like this happens, I realize more and more than not speaking up is to be complicit in America's greatest failure. For two and a half centuries, we can't seem to shake racism from our culture. If we don't demand more from the members of our communities, our elected leaders and the institutions of our nation, there's no incentive for change.
I didn't speak up because it's exhausting to talk about racism. Having a racist president who has further normalized racism, when I hoped that we had started to move in the other direction, is also exhausting. The problem is that I have the luxury of caving to that exhaustion as a white guy. I won't get pulled over for driving while black, or assaulted and killed for going for a run through a primarily white neighborhood. I literally don't have skin in the game in the same way that people of color do.
This is something we fix largely by local civic engagement, in all areas of discrimination. We don't get fast food from companies that fund homophobic charities. We don't shop at big box stores that exploit minorities and the poor. We don't vote for local leaders unwilling to admit that there are really two criminal justice systems. We hold law enforcement accountable through technology and strict policy and training (and protect those officers who uphold those ideals). We speak up at work when we observe sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. It starts locally.
So let's start with something local and timely. Texas: Get your shit together. Black and Latino people are disproportionately getting sick and dying from Covid-19, and part of the reason is that testing availability leans heavily toward white neighborhoods in many cities. Similar scenarios are playing out in pockets all over the south, mostly where minorities live. We have to speak up.
The optimist in me really does believe that we as a nation can get better at this, but I naively thought that my generation would be the one to break cycle. We can't go around saying that we don't see color, because that means we don't see the inequity associated with it. Speak up. Get involved.