My friend said to me yesterday, “Why does America stand for Freedom but then act like this? Why does this keep happening?”
Minnesota – a state once known for well, nothing, is now getting international attention for George Floyd’s murder.
From here in Thailand, to online from South America to the Middle East, to Europe, people have asked me about the present situation because not only am I American, but I am from Minnesota.
Nine months of living abroad, I expected to be homesick, not sickened by the place I call home.
Everyone around the world who I’ve encountered has asked me this same question – “why does this keep happening?”
The answer starts with other questions – why do people around the world see it as wrong when most of my Minnesota colleagues have stayed in comfortable silence? If they’re not silent, why are they frustrated over the destruction of arbitrary-chain-grocery-stores, but not about cold-blooded murder?
It’s called privilege, poor education, and ignorance. And as a non-Black American raised in Minnesota, I’m guilty of all of it.
Growing up as an American, we are taught, fed, and even given college-entry exams on the topic of privilege – the privilege that has personified itself as media and history textbooks.
Growing up as a non-Black person, this means that we truly get to experience what it means to live in the “land of the free.”
In school, we very briefly learned about the KKK, segregation, and lynching. Our education system told us that these events, people, things, and organizations occurred in our past. We memorized dates to understand that these atrocities were over and to see the United States’ overall progression.
When I was 12, my history teacher let us eat lunch in her classroom to watch the inauguration of the first Black president. I felt pride in my country while reading a sign on TV that said, “Martin Luther King Jr. is smiling today.”
With Obama’s election, I thought I was watching an artist paint the great-American picture that we lived in a post-violent, integrated, society after the Civil Rights Movement.
I’ve not-so-simply had the privilege of growing up in a parallel universe USA to that of Black Americans.
We learn history so that it doesn’t repeat itself.
However, the majority of Americans haven’t been learning, and that’s part of the reason why nothing has changed. Black history is American history.
One of the most notable and ongoing historical events has been the egregious cover-up of The Black Experience.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I learned about the realities of police brutality from the movie, “Straight Outta Compton,” not from a university course titled, “American History 1939-present.” Two years later, I learned the Tulsa Race Massacre was the first aerial bombing in the United States, not Pearl Harbour. But these are just examples.
As non-Black Americans, we are given a falsified upbringing of what the United States means for all.
Racism has never stopped.
Within the past five years, it has been increasingly caught on video. It is a harsh reality, but it is the reality that some people have to face their entire lives.
So, does that answer the question, “why does this keep happening?”
As white people and non-Black POCS, we have benefited from systemic racism and haven’t done anything to end it. In school, we watched countless videos on anti-bullying—the hypocrisy of that when bullies and their bystanders run our entire society.
There cannot be any more excuses to stay silent. There is no excuse for a lack of education now.
If you don’t feel the urge to speak out, with a broken and heavy heart, I am begging you to keep reading and listening until you feel upset enough to do so.
It’s good to feel uncomfortable – if you have any empathy or even sympathy, you should not be comfortable right now. If you genuinely believe in equality – recognizing others’ inequality is the first step to that.
It is okay to recognize your privilege, and it is okay to know that you play a roll in the oppression of Black citizens. But it is never, never too late to use your voice. Everyone needs you.
Truthfully I am homesick – I wish I were in Minnesota fighting for human rights, demanding justice for George, and helping friends who were tear-gassed for peacefully protesting.
My heart goes out to all my fellow Black Americans. You matter, and it is time for change to happen.
Please find a list of petitions and places to donate below.
Available to anyone with internet access from Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Oceania, Europe, Antarctica, any of the four oceans, and the moon.
Cover photo by Joseph Ngabo.
Minnesota Freedom Fund
National Police Accountability Project
Black Visions Collective
The Bail Project
Communities United Against Police Brutality