By Vale, 17, New York City, New York
Over the past two weeks I have watched as the murder of George Floyd has caused global protests around systemic racism. The significance of a global pandemic that is disproportionately killing black Americans has brought to light the layers of systemic racism, beyond just police brutality. Rather, our models for housing, education, employment and health that work to profit white people and disadvantage the Black community and other communities of color.
Within my New York City school community the conversations mimic those occurring in our greater world: abolishing long overdue racist systems and creating reform that works to counter bias, bigotry and racism. Unfortunately what continues to occur is that conversations and actions around systemic racism fall on the shoulders of POC. Therefore, just like the greater world this work needs to be shifted to the white community. This is the conversation I have had within my school community, with my friends and family. Recognizing that until white people see white supremacy as their issue it will continue to rein.
Within these conversations there are many things I have noticed. Being white, one the greatest privileges we have is to not think about our race. Which is something I have attempted to work on within myself, recognizing my own privileges on a day to day basis. The conversations I have been engaging in are about the importance of reflecting, listening, learning and then acting: working inside out. What I have noticed however is how easy it is to condense your understanding of racism or choose to intellectualize it.
Racism is often condensed to bigotry. Alternatively, it is often understood as a system of privileges based on our history of slavery and oppression. But, what I think often happens with white people, and I catch myself doing this because it's easier, we put off or even fully neglect the emotional work. Understanding facts and history allow for a greater understanding of how our world operates. However, the act of self-reflection, recognizing moments when you yourself were racist or profited from racism is harder. You have to actively see how you co-exist with these systems, while also knowing that your actions will never be enough. The title of a recent article in the Washington Post, “When black people are in pain, white people just join book clubs” says a lot.
After the recent events I attended a zoom call with any white members of my school who wanted to join and discuss the recent events and our work as white people. The number of participants was greater than any white affinity conversation I have attended. Additionally, my instagram feed now better resembles a newspaper: filled with articles, facts, and resources. I hope that this isn’t just social pressure. I hope that it is a combination of many factors but the greatest one being that people want systemic change and white people realize we have allowed this to go on for far too long.