Dear White People: We Need To Talk

Copyright @Vail Henry. Used with permission.

Dear White People:

Consider this an open letter from another white person. A woman, in fact. I consider myself a cis-woman, which means I was assigned female at birth and I consider myself female. I am white. You can tell from my author photo too.

So why the open letter? Because my gods, we white people are infuriating.

A few weeks ago, an unarmed, unresisting Black man named George Floyd was killed. Murdered, in fact, by a police officer. And it wasn’t accidental, no matter what that officer may say. I mean, Mr. Floyd kept saying over and over “I can’t breathe”. He had a knee on his neck, obstructing blood flow and disrupting the interior of his throat. For nine minutes.

I did say he wasn’t resisting, right? He was handcuffed, face-down on the ground. He didn’t fight.

He was murdered while in police custody. He hadn’t even gotten put in the police car.

What about Breonna Taylor?

She was asleep in her home, in bed, when the police used a no-knock warrant to break into her home, assuming wrongly that a suspect was using her home to transport drugs. When the police broke in, her boyfriend feared (rightly) for their lives and fired in self-defense, not knowing they were police officers.

Breonna was killed in the firefight. The police recklessly fired 22 times without ever identifying themselves. 8 of those bullets killed Breonna.

Did the police ever consider the lives inside that home? Or behind them, or next to them?

Of course, the police dispute the events, claiming that they had in fact knocked. Why then ask for a no-knock warrant? Why do it in the middle of the night, when people were likely asleep?

What about Tamir Rice?

Tamir Rice was just 12 years old! He was playing in a park with a toy gun, the same kind I imagine my 7 year old would likely be playing with. Instead of verifying if it was a gun or a toy, police barely gave him a chance before they shot and killed him.

They claimed he didn’t appear like a teenager.

My son is 7, as I mentioned above. At 7, he is almost five feet tall and weighs a bit chubbily for his height. Many, many countless think he was anywhere from 10 to 13 years old. His father and I believe he will be well over six feet before he hits 13 years old.

And he is white.

If a similar shooting happened to my son, I imagine countless would rise up in anger, demanding the officers be charged with murder, be fired, have to pay something to help with my loss…. but with Tamir Rice, it was like “Oh, another n***** being a big man. No loss.”

Every time, whether it’s man, woman or child, a Black person is killed, we often say “Well, we only see one side of the story! What if he resisted before they shoved him to the ground? What if he was badmouthing them? What if” What if what if what if!

Stop.

Stop doing that. Stop insisting there’s more to the story. How about we recognize that there is a disproportionate number of Black people, unarmed and non-combatant — being killed by the police?? Don’t bring up black versus black nonsense. That has nothing to do with what’s going on.

Some time ago, the FBI reported that white supremacists were infiltrating the police department because that gave them almost unlimited power to do whatever they wanted to Black people — including murder. The police have qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is designed to protect all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law. Law enforcement officers are entitled to qualified immunity when their actions do not violate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right.

There have been far too many who have been unarmed, unresisting, being killed by the police. Instead of standing on the side of right, listening to Black people cry about this — from Colin Kaepernick kneeling silently during the national anthem — to outright protests, we tell them to be quiet. We ignore it. We dismiss them, claiming there always had to be a reason.

Even when a study demonstrates at least 40% of police families experience domestic violence, we ignore it. Even when a headline says “Police Have a Much Bigger Domestic-Abuse Problem Than the NFL Does”, we go “Oh, okay” and then ignore it some more.

Even when #BlackLivesMatter circulates in social media, via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, there’s always that one white person going “ALL LIVES MATTER”. As if the implication is, it’s Black Lives Matter only. No.

We have a problem. We claim we’re colorblind, that we don’t see color. That’s a form of racism by not acknowledging we have different skin colors, different beliefs. It’s okay for us to be different.

But you have to choose a side.

You can’t straddle the middle going, “Well, there are some bad apples, but the police are doing a great job!” and “Yeah, it’s a shame Black people are being killed by the police, but black on black violence!”

Either you’re on the side of racism, where you don’t care about Black people, Native Americans, and other people of color dying wrongly, or you’re on the side of right, where a change is absolutely necessary.

I know the side I’m on. I’m on the side of the dying, where Black and Brown are being murdered, stolen, abused, and tortured, and the nation doesn’t care about it. Maybe our president doesn’t. Maybe a goodly portion of Congress doesn’t.

I do. I hope you do too.

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Owned by four cats. Wanna-be writer. Currently living in the Midwest of the United States of America.

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Esther Olson

Esther Olson

Owned by four cats. Wanna-be writer. Currently living in the Midwest of the United States of America.

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