We didn't all understand the protests at the beginning. We can all learn more. It's on all of us to challenge our own assumptions, not challenge others' realities. Black Lives Matter.
I'll admit, I didn't get it at first. At least, I didn't get all of it.
I knew that racism is a systemic issue. I knew that police targeted people of color disproportionately. I knew that police were over-militarized. I knew that non-police forms of public safety and wellness were underfunded. But a few weeks ago I could not have made an argument for defunding the police. What I didn't know or understand was, and is, associated with my immense privilege.
Breonna Taylor and George Floyd were killed, and the empty streets refilled. I recognized the protests were driven from a long lasting pain, but I didn't get all of the slogans that were being promoted. I didn't feel the level of internal pain that was fueling the protests. I tried at first to sympathize, but I couldn't.
I came to realize that sympathy was not what I needed. Empathy was. There's a subtle difference there, at least in my perspective, but it boils down to this: I could not feel the pain of people directly affected in the same way as they do, but I can do my best to recognize and internalize it.
That recognition opened up my ability to better process what was really happening. It opened up my ability to understand the demands. It led me to better searching through the news to find the causes that are often covered as the symptoms.
I knew #blacklivesmatter
I now know we must #DefundThePolice
I know I have more to learn.
I'm not saying this because I want credit for this. I'm saying it because I want to help anyone who needs to recognize that you aren't a bad person if you didn't or don't understand why people have been protesting and demanding systemic overhaul, as long as you're willing to open your ears, eyes, and heart to consider the reality of others over your pre-existing assumptions. Empathy doesn't deserve rewards, but failure to try empathizing deserves criticism.
I know many of you are capable of searching for resources on your own, and I highly recommend you do. Check on and listen to the experiences of Black and non-Black POC in your communities. Read and listen to more discussion about these issues written and produced by Black people.
If you need a place to start, I recommend this episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which covered policing's systemic issues. The method of storytelling/teaching in the show works well with my learning methods.
If you want more resources of various types to learn more, I've been trying to keep track of the many resources I've seen shared through social media, school, and work and I'd be more than happy to share them. I'm also available to talk privately with anyone who has questions that you might not want to ask publicly. I can't promise the best answers, but I want to help the conversation for you as much as I can.