To Black America
To the editor:
I have watched in horror, anger, sorrow, fear and yes finally HOPE, the unfolding of events in Minneapolis and around the world. After seeing the George Floyd memorial service on television, I have spent sleepless nights pondering everything I’ve learned in school and from my parents about who I am, where I came from and who I believed myself to be as an adult. Here is what I have come to know:
I grew up and have lived my entire 64 years in upper Midwest America. I believed that through the hard work of myself and my ancestors (all of whom came from Northern Europe) I had achieved a relatively successful and peaceful life. I’ve shed many tears these past few days as I’ve come to realize that much of this has been faulty thinking on my part.
We learned in school to “stand tall” and be proud that through the Civil War, President Lincoln and some of our forefathers had ended slavery and freed the slaves. We could “stand tall” and be proud that our people gave blacks the right to vote. We “stood” on the promise that our country had come out strong on the side of justice and equality after the civil rights movements of the 1960s. We have continued to “stand” by our beliefs that we are not racist. We learned not to use disparaging language about other peoples. We diligently taught our children that we should treat all people fairly and “not see the color of their skin”.
What we didn’t know, while we were congratulating ourselves on being so open-minded, was that we weren’t standing at all. We were actually kneeling on the black community. We lived comfortably with our knees on your necks because you were quiet and it gave us an unearned sense of peace. We couldn’t hear your cries of fear or sorrow because we were kneeling in our prosperity in the most successful and powerful country in the world.
My knees are tired. I want to stand, or better yet sit down with others to try to solve this problem. I have shed enough tears. I am full of HOPE in seeing the young people of America stand together on issues of racism. I hope I am speaking for much of white America. We are listening. We are ready to hear. We have much to learn.
Heart-broken but hopeful White American