26 May 2022
Mr. Floyd was murdered by a white cop two years ago. This week is the “anniversary” of that murder. It happened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I live in Minneapolis, and Mr. Floyd was murdered about 4 blocks from where I once lived.
This past week, people were murdered by a white supremacist in Buffalo, New York. Most of the people were people of color. I went to college in Buffalo, New York. When I lived in Buffalo,. New York (from the late 70’s until the mid 80’s), it was a working class town, racially segregated, with a big Black community and a big Italian community. I loved living there and still am in contact with some of my friends from those days. i checked with one friend whose kids still live in Buffalo in the African American neighborhood where the people were killed. Thank God, no one in her family was killed.
Several days ago, 20 plus people (mostly children) were murdered in a small town in Texas. Most of the children were children of color. More violence.
When will this violence stop?
Too many parents worry that when they kiss their children goodbye as they head off to school, they fear for their children’s lives. “Will my child be alive at the end of the day?” And unfortunately, it is often people of color who die. And sometimes, it is people of color who commit these atrocities. I am not saying that racism is THE cause for violence in the United States today in 2022. Nor am I saying that the life of any one person is more valuable or less valuable than another. I am saying that there are, indeed, two systems of justice/injustice that operate in the U.S. These systems of justice/injustice have been created predominantly by white people because we are the folks who have most of the institutional power. We are the people who get elected and make the laws. We have the power to buy election victories. Those of us in power DO know the history of this country because we have intentionally built the justice system that perpetuates such violence. I say, “we,” because I am a white person. No, I am not an elected official nor am I rich enough to buy an election. But I absolutely benefit from this justice system every minute of every day. No one follows me around in a store to see if I might “steal” something. If I am stopped by a cop because I am speeding, I will most likely not get a ticket. I’m an old white lady, age 71 with gray hair and I use a cane. A cop will most likely tell me that if I was speeding, I should slow down and be more careful. He will not pull me out of the driver’s seat and push me spread eagle onto the hood of my car. I’m a little old white lady, right? (The cop doesn’t know by looking at me that I might be a “good troublemaker,” to quote the brilliant and late Congressional leader of color, John Lewis. I hope I will be a “good troublemaker” for as long as I live.)
It is a quiet Thursday afternoon in Minneapolis. I have been watching a film that I taped last night on TV, “The Murder of Fred Hampton.” Mr. Hampton, a Black man, was murdered by white cops in Chicago, Illinois several decades ago. The film shows footage of Mr. Hampton giving speeches. My memory isn’t great (I have vascular dementia), but one thing he said…and I paraphrase…”you can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill a revolution.” No, I am NOT a revolutionary by any means. I’m just an old white lady who still believes (after decades of challenging the system of injustice in the U.S.) that maybe, we might be able to change some of the institutional structures here that continue to perpetuate injustices in this country. Watching the film reminds me of how little things have changed. Yes, there has been change, but not nearly enough.
Am I a fool for believing that perhaps we will make the changes necessary to end white supremacy? Maybe. I sometimes believe that we will not be able to make these changes. After the past week of murders, I wonder if it is possible to change the system that is cemented in place. Can I take a hammer to make this system crumble? Certainly, not alone. I believe in the collective power of people. However, many of us in the U.S. have been duped into believing that we cannot change the system. I see it every day. And, in the U.S., we’ve been drilled to live as “individuals,” and not work collectively. I was in the grocery store yesterday, and there was an African American man walking down the aisle next to me and he was singing. And I smiled at him and said, “Great voice, way to go.” He looked at me and said, “Fuck you.”
I did not respond. Many people of color cannot tolerate white people…for good reason. We have created these horrendous systems of power from which we benefit. By virtue of being white, I do “represent” all the assholes in this country who screw people of color. I look just like the cop who might have pulled over the African American man in the store. I did not respond because it would not have changed anything. If I said, “I’m not an asshole…I’m a “good” white person,” I probably would have made the man even more angry. So what do we do, as white people, when we think to ourselves…”oh, it’s not me…I’m a good white person…”. WHAT DO WE DO?????
I believe that good questions are as important as answers. I do not have a magical answer. All I can say is that we do not give up. We push to make change every minute of every day. I used to be a college professor. I retired six years ago. I don’t have the opportunity to work with young adults on a daily basis anymore. I miss being around young people since I now live in a senior cooperative. I believe that in my 35 years as a professor, I learned more from my students than I ever taught them. Today, all my neighbors are old farts, just like me. Some talk about the “good old radical days in the 60’s….” I honestly do not know many of my neighbors intimately. I don’t know all their stories, where they worked, what they did, etc. To live here at Becketwood, you need money, which means most of us here are white people because we are more likely to have accumulated some degree of wealth in our lifetime, or we have access to “borrow” money from banks.. l want Becketwood to look more like the rest of the world. I have worked really hard in my lifetime to live in a world that includes intimate friendships with people of color, poor people, young people, Elders, people of various religious backgrounds, people with various abilities. As a lesbian for over half of my lifetime, I have always had heterosexual friends who did not merely “tolerate” me. I’ve always challenged people who simply “tolerate” people who are not just like them. It’s not enough to “tolerate” people.
I just got off yet another zoom call. I seem to live on zoom all the time, especially during this pandemic. Yes, it’s great to not be totally isolated, but you can’t touch or hug someone on zoom.
The zoom call was with Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC). I was a panelist on a program called: ”What did I forget?” Enough said. OLOC is a great organization. As a dyke who is basically single, it was lovely to see the faces of other dykes for the past 90 minutes. I did not feel as isolated as I sometimes feel. I love my kitties, but they can’t answer any questions i have, and i don’t speak kitty language to understand what they might be asking me, though one of my kitties loves to sit on my lap when i’m on a zoom call. He must like hearing voices besides my voice.
I’m going to stop now because I’m tired. Tired of the pandemic. Tired of having vascular dementia. Tired of being alone most of the time. Tired of all the fucking violence in this world. Everyone, be safe.