Last week was challenging, to say the least.
And sadly, not new…
We had two publicly shared incidents of racism. One in Central Park and one in Minneapolis. One involving police and one involving a civilian. One involving men and one involving a woman. Both targeting Black men.
Racism and Thoughts Out Loud
Watching Amy Cooper’s actions on video sparked many emotions in me. I was amazed to see her thought process out loud. I was amazed by how quickly she decided to call the police, and I was intrigued that she articulated her plan to say she was being threatened. These are the things that likely go through many minds, but we rarely hear it out loud. It’s a well thought-out plan because we have seen what happens to Black men in encounters with police often in North America. The efficacy and consequences are obviously clear to her – this is how she will solve this situation she finds herself in. Christian Cooper is lucky to be alive. Consider that in another situation, without a video, we could be mourning two losses of Black men at the hands of police this week. I have been unable to watch any video about George Floyd’s death.
Racism and Pain
I see pain all around in these two incidents. Certainly and obviously for George Floyd, and for his family as they mourn his death at the hands of police. An unnecessary death. A death that is the result of racism and systemic racism. I see pain for Christian Cooper, who was doing what he loved – bird watching – and had to deal with a violent racial encounter.
And, in addition to my anger, frustration, and intense sadness at these latest examples of racism, separation and disconnection, I also see pain for Amy and the police officers. White people have been taught to hate, to discriminated, to devalue people with darker skin. It’s systemic. It’s deep. It’s so deep it’s not seen for what it is – racism – and believed to be justified and “the way it is”. People then act on that learning. And we have seen two results this week. I believe that hatred also causes pain to the one who holds it. It’s a soul pain that the person may not recognize.
1 man has lost his life this week because of racism and hate. One man has been impacted. And 5 people have lost their jobs. Family members are mourning and there are riots in the streets of Minneapolis. There is anger. Justified anger at a system and society that devalues people who are Black and doesn’t protect them. In fact, a system that targets and makes it unsafe to be Black.
Racism – any ism, any hate – hurts us all as a human family. Despite my anger, I am holding space for this as well. So we can heal this in a different way.
The Myth of Race – and the consequences
My heart weeps for George Floyd and his family. I am saddened that Christian Cooper had to endure another act and expression of racism. And my soul weeps for how we are so disconnected, so far apart because of a construct someone made up that is still believed and acted on my so many people: that there are different races of people and that some are better than others. Race is not real. But because we have been taught that race is real, and thereby that those with dark skin have less value, racism is very real with devastating consequences.
Racism will continue to hurt us all – some very visibly and violently, and others silently and unnoticed – as it continues to tear at the soul of humanity, until we find a way to come together and heal. I long for that, and in my work I endeavour to make space for awareness and inquiry that can help us arrive there. It’s a vision I have to hold, and action: to stand in the possibility that there can be greater connection, hope and healing.
Here is my hope and commitment: That we deepen the conversation. That the conversations move from the individuals involved – from pointing at them only, and making it about their actions only – to the reality that they have learned this from a system of racism embedded deeply within our societies, laws, practices, and teachings (both overt and covert) and what that means and looks like for us all. That from these deeper conversations come deeper connections, that inspire actions which will create meaningful and real change.
I hope you will join me.
PS – if you are interested in a discussion about leaning in to conversations about race and racism, I’m hosting a call this Wednesday June 3 at 11:30EST. Email me for the link (firstname.lastname@example.org)