Most people get through life by telling themselves “it’s not that bad.” This is a lie. On a recent bonus episode of the Code Switch podcast Kenya Young, executive producer of NPR’s Morning Edition, talks about giving “the talk” to her three black sons. This segment, beginning 27 minutes into the podcast, is devastating. After listening, we reached an inescapable conclusion: if we cannot bring ourselves to take power away from cruelly unequal policing, then we ourselves are cruelly complicit.
We recognize that some of us, as white people with privilege, need to learn a lot more. We thought the talk was a talk. One talk. But it’s actually layers upon layers of talks and admonitions. Young describes sitting with her children, watching “When they See Us”, Ava DuVernay’s documentary about the Exonerated 5, and realizing that she needs to deliver “the talk 2.0.” In addition to not triggering fragile and dangerous police in public, she needs to further instruct her innocent children to avoid manipulation by lying police officers after arrest. In other words, the cruel and inhuman system that is US policing has more layers than even an experienced parent like Young expects to find.
The cruelty of policing is inescapably displayed in the George Floyd recording. In his last moments of life, he twice calls out to his mother. Every black woman who has ever given the talk to a child is exposed to inhuman cruelty as another former child is killed. They continue to relive this cruelty with each murder. They see it. George Floyd knows he is being killed. He sees it. In clear and moving words, Young helps us all see and feel it too.
We in Grassroots Alexandria are committed to supporting and elevating the voices of communities of color. That includes allied organizations as well as many individuals, both inside and outside of the establishment. As we work to live up to this commitment, we expect to support both symbolic and substantive actions and to buttress demands both for reforming the conduct of policing and defunding police programs that should instead be handled by non-punitive community organizations. We invite all who hear our voices and the voices of our allies to participate.
In our quest to achieve substantive progress towards justice, we ask that everyone consider each call to action and think about each cry for justice. In every case we urge you to seek the truth, looking both inward and outward. In each case we encourage you to lend support when you can and observe with respect when you cannot. And, as always, please keep safe.