Running, sleeping, birding—just a few of the many daily activities that every American has the freedom to enjoy. And while health, relaxation, and mindfulness might be the result for most people in participating in these activities, the outcome is vastly different for those living while Black.
Recent events read like the most tragic of tales that our children are now reading and hearing every day.
As people of color, we know first-hand that going about our routines is different for us. And it has been, always.
The videos and news stories of Black individuals losing their lives, either at the hands of the police or by our fellow “citizens”, is not new. Racism’s social DNA is so intertwined into the fabric of America—smart phones and mobile technology have only served to magnify the contagion that has long been the pandemic chipping away at America’s “land of the free” cloak.
With smart phones and social media, racism no longer lurks in the shadows of off-beat media, secret handshakes, and clandestine conversations. It’s out there for all of us to see, for us to be outraged, to send sympathy, to copy and add another hashtag to the constant streams of pictures and posts—#BLM, #AhmaudArbery, #GeorgeFloyd, #IMatter—from the moment we rise to when we conclude our day.
“There’s an African-American man threatening my life.”
As we suffer under the barrage of content resulting from tragic events over the last several weeks—and think back to the past events over the last several years—the Christian Cooper birding incident adds a critical brush stroke to the racial conversation picture.
This week we saw a different video. A video that did not portray the end, but the beginning. A video of a white woman threatening to call the police on an African American man in Central Park, NYC.
We now faced visible and audible proof that revealed the intrinsic power that every POC already knows exists for every non-POC. The video set off an emotional response in everyone who has seen it be they of black, white, or brown skin tone.
Did she consider the consequences? Only she would know for sure.
Had the police come before they both walked away, would he have walked away or even survived?
The Vegas odds of Christian becoming an Ahmaud, Breonna or George spiked in that very moment. We were watching the precursor and prologue to so many other more tragic videos, media articles and hashtags. We saw the power of white privilege in action and that action has consequences.
It’s not new; it’s been happening for generations. Ask Emmett Till’s family.
White privilege is real. It is inherently part of who white Americans are. It is the “trump card” that persons of color will never have. True, most do not abuse it, but they will always benefit from it whether they are conscious of it or not.
And when confronted by it, like with the Central Park video, many white Americans are embarrassed seeing this power being abused. But much like “thoughts and prayers”, embarrassment and empathy aren’t going to change our reality.
America’s New Opportunities
In front of us is the opportunity for those with the privilege to confront their own bias, to consider why this video is so shocking, to admit that they do have power that others do not.
This is a pivotal point in American socio-cultural history to realize that this power is an opportunity to help change the system. Sympathy is great, but actions are called for. People of color have always looked up to try and change the system. Civil Rights was the first step in that process, as it gave us the laws to remove the visible sanctions of discrimination against people of color.
But we are now at another key turn in this road to equality. The visible sanctions might be gone, but the heart of the racism still exists. We must confront the systematic racism and implicit bias that we all hold, even those of us as people of color. We need dialogue, we need action, we need to fight the injustice that exists and push us to a future we can all be proud of.
Past, Present & Future Tense
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in America.
In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr spoke of difficult days ahead and reaching the mountaintop to see the promised land.
In 2020, Ahmaud, Breonna and George have been added the honor-less roll of black lives lost.
Bringing all Americans to the promised land portrayed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution will take each of us acknowledging and coming to terms with the gap that exists between “privilege” and “experience” and moving beyond words to actions.
The kneeling doesn’t work anymore. The prayers don’t work anymore. Change starts by asking yourself, “What can I do?” Change happens by turning those thoughts into actions.
The first thing you can do is vote—even if you have to stand in line wrapped in plastic wearing a mask. There’s nothing else that we need to hear to know how destructive our current president and government is. We hope that if anything comes out of this year, it motivates people.
Daryl Sneed, Executive Director & Co-Founder/Co-Creative
Natasha Goburdhun, Editorial Contributor
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If you haven’t had a chance, check out Ciara’s Instagram video chat with her daughter following the Biden-Harris confirmed victory. What’s so amazing about this less than 45-second chat is that if you close your eyes while listening to her words, you imagine this same conversation happening across countless households around the globe.