“Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” – James Baldwin
June 2, 2020
On May 25th, we regretfully added to the ever-growing list of those lost to senseless brutality, George Floyd, a Black Minnesota man who was tragically killed by a police officer using excessive force. Mr. Floyd’s death was captured on video for all the world to see as he called out for his mother and repeatedly stated that he could not breathe. If one has a heart, it is difficult to see another human being suffer such inhumane treatment. However, for many, this is simply history repeating itself, over and over again.
Floyd’s murder came on the heels, too, of recent news coming to light about the police killing of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman sleeping in her own home in Kentucky, and a former police officer and his son killing Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. At some point, people become weary of unwarranted cruelty and oppression, and they reach a tipping point, something we’ve also seen repeat itself. This tipping point is what we’re now witnessing as people take their righteous anger to the streets.
We do not believe looting and burning of communities is the answer to this problem. We do understand the outrage, the fatigue, and the desire to be heard. Dr. Martin Luther King, whose quotes are often co-opted and cherry-picked to focus on only what is more conciliatory, said in his 1967 speech The Other America,
“…it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
His words are chillingly accurate today. And we cannot ignore evidence indicating that what started as peaceful protests turned dramatically through a combination of police aggression, white supremacist gangs, opportunists of many races, and raw anger, all enflamed by agents provocateurs at the federal level.
All who live in this country deserve to be treated with the same level of respect and to have their voices heard equally. Ignorance should not be given power, ever, and when it is, we must use our power to correct it at the polls. We must be diligent and courageous in doing our research and voting for leaders who believe in the rights of all people. We have to promote growth and be willing to learn. We must build our courage to step across the imaginary divides, engage in dialogue, build relationships, and understand our shared ideals. People of all races, especially white people, must learn to stand up against racism in its many forms. Don’t just be a bystander who observes the injustices being perpetrated in our society. Be an active bystander, someone who takes action when they witness harm, and, better yet, be an active participant in dismantling injustice and white supremacy at every level of your life.
We can do this by becoming more informed, learning about our shared humanity, and working diligently to inform those who are in our respective spheres of influence. Learn our history. Practice critical thinking and analysis. Grow comfortable with complexity and inconsistency. Practice talking about race. Practice listening, and believe others about their own experiences. Investigate the racial representation in your social groups, churches, business and work settings, and decision makers in the organizations you’re affiliated with or support. Put aside your fear of failure, and don’t let perfection keep you from the work. Be kind to yourself and others. Keep going.
The Winter Institute Staff
Portia Ballard Espy
Jacqueline Byrd Martin
“I recall being horrified as a child during the ’60s hearing the stories of people being killed due to racial violence, and I remember the same level of horror when my grandmother shared stories of similar terror taking place throughout her lifetime. When is this going to stop?” – Executive Director Portia Ballard Espy
- Register to VOTE: https://vote.gov/
Push for Vote By Mail to increase voter participation:
- Contact your US Senators: https://www.senate.gov/…/contact_informat…/senators_cfm.cfm…
- Contact your US Representative: https://www.house.gov/representati…/find-your-representative
- Contact your state legislator: https://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/
Read, Watch, Listen. There are dozens of resources for how you can learn and help, as a quick internet search will show. Here are some we hope will get you started in deepening your learning and conversations:
- Research-based solutions to stopping police violence: https://twitter.com/samswey/status/1180655701271732224?s=20
- Anti-Racism Resources: http://bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES
- Talking About Race: a guide from the National Museum of African American History & Culture: https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race
- Campaign Zero: https://www.joincampaignzero.org/research
- Alternately, other conversations on policing push against this approach, including https://www.8toabolition.com/
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice: https://medium.com/…/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-ju…
- Colorlines: https://www.colorlines.com/
- Racial Equity Tools: https://www.racialequitytools.org/
- Teaching for Change: https://www.teachingforchange.org/
Participate. We are continuing to host Zoom calls open to your participation. The next three focus on the trauma of what is happening now in our country—the continued racialized murders of Black people at the hands of police, the long history of white supremacy and racism that allow it to continue, and the other traumas and oppression inseparable from that.
- Tuesday, June 9, 5:30-7:00 pm: General call, open to all, facilitated by our Community & Capacity Building Team
- Wednesday, June 10, 12:00-1:30pm: Single-identity call, with an invitation to Black people who need a space to talk, facilitated by Jackie Byrd Martin, of our Community & Capacity Building Team, and Vondaris Gordon, our Youth Engagement Manager
- Thursday, June 11, 12:00-1:30 pm: Single-identity call, with an invitation to white people who want to be better allies in the work of racial justice, facilitated by April Grayson and Jennifer Heath, of our Community & Capacity Building Team
- UPCOMING starting mid-June. Learn more about structural racism and inequity through a series of weekly learning and action calls.
Sign up for a call here: https://forms.gle/5HwkRpKzTXBK4teE9