Dear white Americans,
In this moment in history, how do you feel about racism in our country?
I am overwhelmed with sadness, anger, hurt and frustration.
Black men are my friends. Black men are people I love. Black men are people I work with every single day. I am writing to you because they asked me to do so. They think maybe because I look like your daughter, or your wife or you, that you will listen to me. You will hear me out and take my advice.
Quite frankly, I don’t know what to tell you if you aren’t already infuriated by the ugliness that looms over our country. What can I possibly say that will influence you more than someone who has lived, breathed and endured racism every single day?
But, here goes.
This past week, our country witnessed a white cop, Derek Chauvin, kill a black man, George Floyd, by forcing his knee into his neck during an arrest for a non-violent crime. Also, we saw a white woman, Amy Cooper, weaponize racism to gain power in a verbal disagreement.
As I walk through my neighborhood, I feel as though I should be apologizing to every black person I see. I am ashamed of the way humans have and are still treating other humans.
For days, I couldn’t even bring myself to watch the video of George Floyd’s death. But just before I sat down to write this letter, I did. Immediately, I started to get emotional, as I watched a man in a powerless position lose his life at the hands of the very person who I was raised to believe should be protecting him.
Sadly, this is not a one-time occurrence. From Trayvon Martin to Ahmaud Arbery, week after week, year after year, we see all too similar narratives of unarmed black men senselessly losing their lives. We respond with outrage and, yet, nothing changes.
That’s why I don’t just see George Floyd underneath Chauvin’s knee. I see my college boyfriend, Uche, who used to wake up in the middle of the night and walk five blocks in the snow to meet me at the bar, so I didn’t have to walk back to the dorm alone. I see my friend Daniel, who, throughout this pandemic, has called or texted me at least three times a week to ask, “Are you doing OK?” I see executives who have spent hours giving me feedback on my reels or advice for my new company so that I can live my dreams. I see the athletes who spent their only day of the week off doing an interview to support me and my career.
The men I see underneath that knee are caring, loving, protective, intelligent, accomplished, kind and selfless people who would never hurt any of you. Yet, these men are getting murdered. They are being treated as if their lives have no value. They are considered, by some, as less than white or, even worse, less than human.
I am asking you, no, I am begging you for your help – not just your posts on social media or your words of compassion. I need your help. I need you to join me in putting our power and privilege into action.
When you go out to vote, don’t vote with your bank account in mind. Vote with your heart at the helm.
While there are many good cops, police brutality is a repeated problem. The corrupt cops don’t seem scared of repercussions. What that tells me is that the police who are behaving poorly, are getting away with it far more often than they’re being held accountable.
Police departments need to put stricter policies and protocols in place and enforce them with severe consequences. In that same vein, there needs to be legal consequences, albeit from laws that already exist or that still need to be written, for racially motivated false reports and accusations. Call your representatives. Start a petition. Vote or write letters to your leaders to make these changes.
If you have young children, even if they go to a mostly-white school, find ways to introduce them to friends of different cultures. Ensure they grow up with the ability to see and love people for who they are and not the stereotypes that may precede them.
Talk about race in your family, amongst your friends and with your children. It’s OK to reference color in these conversations. Recognizing and acknowledging that racism exists is important, and you can’t do so without referencing race.
At work, when your black co-worker gets screwed out of a promotion or when you hear a person refer to someone who is black as a N*****, intervene. Stand up for right versus wrong. I know these situations are uncomfortable and difficult. You may not always know what to say, but I promise you, the worst you can say is nothing at all.
I understand there may not be black men or black people in your life that you love like there are in mine. You may not have any friends that are black. Maybe you don’t know any black people at all. Even if that’s so, please, please understand that we all love. We all hurt and we all deserve the opportunity to live a long and good life. And that’s why no matter what or who you see as George Floyd struggles to breathe underneath that knee, it is not nearly as important as how it makes you feel and what you decide to do about it.
Speak loudly, hug often and do whatever you can to make a difference.
With love for all,