Dear white people, here’s your chance to speak up about George Floyd

Start talking to your own relatives about racism, vote wisely

Photo credit: Pressmaster/Pexels

Excuse me. I was naive. Back in March, I made an off-handed comment to a loved one about social isolation and coronavirus. I said something to the effect of, “The one upside of COVID-19 is at least it will get cops to stop harassing black folks. They won’t want to touch them.” The worst part is I genuinely believed that racial profiling would take a much-needed break. Officers would be too busy looking for actual criminals to just pick on anyone with melanin.

It didn’t take me long to realize I couldn’t have been more wrong. First, it was the story of Kip Diggs having to overthink the color of his face mask more than its use — never mind what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say about preventing a health outbreak that has (now) infected more than 101K Americans. Then there was the story of Halo Dale and his friend getting kicked out of Walmart. And I’m still dumbfounded that the police didn’t do more for train conductor Belly Mujinga, who died three days after she was spat on by a white passenger. I was perplexed by the stupidity of it all. My hopeful comment was quickly discredited.

No surprise: the new Carolyn Bryant Donhams

Other stories rarely if ever surprise me. Although police officers luckily didn’t come out to do what the Amy Coopers of the world want them to do to men like Christian Cooper, her story felt all too common. She’s cut from the same cloth as Carolyn Bryant Donham. I expect nothing less than entitlement and lies from a very specific group of white women who have been raised to believe that the sun rises and sets on them.

I’ve heard this story time and time again. Working in traditional newsrooms for a few years, there are some topics that I’ve grown disturbingly desensitized too. Amy Cooper antics are one of them. She deserved exactly what she got — a dog removed and a lost job — but I knew she’d have unquestionable defenders — the kind who tell you to “follow at your own risk” and then make their accounts private when you respond. Figures.

Video footage is needed, but I don’t want to watch it

Still though, I’m not rock hard. I will not watch George Floyd’s video to the end for the same reason I will never ever in life watch Eric Garner’s video to the very end. Generally speaking, when white people see these videos (if they’re willing to admit the blatant racism), they see a black person being abused or killed. When I see videos like this, every last black man I know and love runs through my head before I see the stranger’s face. And then I mourn for the stranger like I knew him too. I see young boys and grown men who were not treated as human beings.

Still a glutton for punishment though, after watching first-degree-level murder from Derek Chauvin, I chose to go from skipping around the George Floyd video to watching a mountain of officers aim guns at a howling-more-than-crying 21-year-old Tye Anders, who was clearly terrified. Anyone who watched that video and felt that was the right response for running a stop sign is not someone I would ever want to be within 600 feet of — never mind 6 feet.

Photo credit: Anwaar Ali/Unsplash

While I halfheartedly tried to smile through Denzel Washington assisting a mentally disabled man before a “safe arrest” (whatever that means), I was still left drained. Denzel Washington won an Oscar for playing a cop in a movie; he shouldn’t have to school cops in real life. I logged off of social media for a few hours just to clear my head. But I went to sleep still thinking about all of these people.

The people who really need to speak up against racism

Not even 24 hours after I struggled to (restlessly) sleep, I logged back into Twitter. One of the first tweets I saw on my timeline was a top tweet from Katie Couric asking for former President Barack Obama to weigh in, or maybe former President George W. Bush. I heavily sighed — and not just because of Hurricane Katrina.

I’ve previously mentioned that I respect her as a journalist, but I will never understand how someone can interview and be around such a diverse group of people for so many years and still seem so sheltered. And she’s not alone. She did what entirely too many white people do when they see racism — a) want to find a black person to talk about it with/to; b) dodge her own voice to consistently talk about it herself. Why not be this lady, not the lady who waits for everyone else to talk? Why not be the Amish group who stood on a bridge in support of George Floyd?

Although her Denzel comments still annoy me, my issue is bigger than her. It’s about the mentality of entirely too many non-black people. There is this need to talk to or hear from anybody but the common denominator.

Where are all these ‘good cops’ you speak of?

Instead of wanting to hear from the 44th president, who she knows will defend George Floyd, try someone else — someone lighter. Let’s hear from all these “good cops” who should speak out against Derek Chauvin, not the same group of marginalized people who have been speaking out since the Middle Passage or a former president who dealt with a non-knee-killing version of Chauvin: Mitch McConnell. This is the time when “good cops” should want to step up, but it is still far too few.

Granted, there are minority police officers who live by the same disturbing blue code that create Freddie Gray traumas. But statistically speaking, they usually look more like Derek Chauvin. (The irony of Chauvin being terminated while all six officers responsible for Gray’s death went back to work doesn’t escape me.) I want to hear more from those who fully understand that they’re supposed to “serve and protect” everyone, including those who fit the new Crayola color skin type. I keep hearing these disclaimers about the “good cops” who aren’t Chauvin but rarely do I see them step up to the podium to talk.

Why the ‘I Don’t See Color’ crowd is counterproductive

Former President Barack H. Obama is no longer the president. He can choose to speak on whatever topic he wants to. But as a voting civilian, he has the right to sit back and let the next presidential candidate speak. You know who more white people should want to hear from? Former Vice President Joe Biden. You know who more white people should want to hear from? Their local white senators and white House of Representatives. You know who more white people should want to hear from? Their aldermen and judges. In addition to the sprinkle of color who can be found in Congress, if you really want change, listen to what white people (who you voted for) are saying about racism, racial profiling and police brutality. And get the ones who do not agree with your Liberal views out of office.

It’s easy to talk your way into thinking you don’t see color. Guess who does? All the people who keep racially profiling and killing black folks. (No, I’m not going to go into a whole diatribe about black-on-black violence unless you also want to acknowledge white-on-white violence. It’s a matter of location, not race specific.) It’s easy to excuse the racist relative you dodge at Thanksgiving and Christmas because their views are “ugly” and “not my views.” But when that obnoxious relative has a badge or controls someone else’s employment or housing or food supply, it’s kinda hard for other groups to just ignore them.

So you scope out the nearest black person. You air all of your thoughts to people who have long been saying what you’re saying. And who is it helping? Talk to your peers, your parents, your grandparents, your “good cop” relatives, your local politicians and your social circle instead. If you really want to do something to combat racism, get more people with power — and privilege — to understand where you’re coming from. Cornering black people whenever you see them to talk about how you wish “more people thought like us” isn’t helping to change anything. Black folks are not looking for you to “us” us to death. We need you to get some more people like you to talk about the kind of shameless racism you see and make changes. Black folks have been voting and speaking out with this mentality in mind since the 15th Amendment passed. It’s your turn. Do something.

Would you like to receive Shamontiel’s Weekly Newsletter via MailChimp? Sign up today!

I Do See Color

“Seeing” color is no more a problem than “seeing” height.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her six Medium pubs: BlackTechLogy, Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

I Do See Color

We are not ashamed of our melanin, and we know you “see” it. Just don’t discriminate and disrespect us because of it.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her six Medium pubs: BlackTechLogy, Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

I Do See Color

We are not ashamed of our melanin, and we know you “see” it. Just don’t discriminate and disrespect us because of it.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store