I wanted to join the protests. I swear I did. But the thought of mingling with that many people after placing myself in self-quarantine for so many months made me queasy. No, it’s not a good excuse, which is why I am offering my sincerest mea culpa.
I sat on the sidelines as an observer during this troubled time, and I’m ashamed because I always take a stance when morality is involved. Instead of joining in, I became hyperfocused on the confusing mixed messaging of COVID-19: Pools are closed but casinos are open. Stay at home unless you absolutely must go to Wal-Mart. Limit grocery store trips yet order restaurant curbside pickup.
Nothing about what happened to George Floyd oozed of mixed messages. He was unarmed. A police officer placed his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and, after communicating numerous times that he couldn’t breathe, George Floyd died.
Our world—already in a tailspin from the pandemic—spiraled even further into the abyss. The turmoil thickened, and my search for understanding this tragedy led me to a more thorough quest for knowledge. What did phrases like “racial injustice” and “systemic racism” really mean? For me, I wanted to delve in deeper so I could be better by becoming better informed.
As a middle-aged white woman, I can merely empathize with racial injustice and how it affects targeted individuals and groups. The discrimination I face as a Jewish woman pales in comparison to the violence toward and the oppression of the Black community. I can basically walk down a street at pretty much any time of day without fear that I will suffer negative repercussions. I have freedom that every human being should have but doesn’t.
While I was not physically present at the protests, I did delve deeply into uncovering ways both you and I can help promote equality and embrace humanity.
My research of over-policed and under-protected communities has led me to seek out inspirational Black leaders and outstanding resources that continue to make a difference. I’d like to share some of them with you.
Times They Are A-Changin’
Colors of Change (http://colorofchange.org) is the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. With more than 1.7 million members throughout the world, Colors of Change works with corporate and government decision-makers to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America. They fight racism and injustice in both politics and culture in order to change the written and unwritten rules of society.
It’s Getting Better All the Time
The Black Women’s Health Imperative (http://bwhi.org) is the first nonprofit organization created by Black women to help protect and advance the health and wellness of Black women and girls. The organization promotes physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being for the nation’s 19.5 million African American women and girls.
The Right Stuff
Founded by civil rights activist and football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Know Your Rights Camp (https://www.knowyourrightscamp.com/) advances the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.
You Lead and I’ll Follow
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay—director of the Oscar-nominated “Selma” and “13th”—recently launched the Law Enforcement Accountability Project (http://www.leapaction.org/), a storytelling initiative to keep police officers accountable through multiple forms of media. LEAP’s mission is to disrupt the code of silence that exists around police aggression and misconduct by funding short-term projects utilizing film, stage and fine arts.
The Human Connection
Michelle Obama is many things: Lawyer. Author. First African-American First Lady of the United States. Advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity and healthy eating. Michelle and President Barack Obama formed the Obama Foundation that includes programs like The Girls Opportunity Alliance (https://www.obama.org/girlsopportunityalliance/), which seeks to empower adolescent girls around the world through education, and; My Brother’s Keeper Alliance (https://obama.org/mbka/), which focuses on building safe and supportive communities for boys and young men of color where they feel valued and have clear pathways to opportunity.
Here is a list of more ladies who have made or are making a difference:
- Cheryl Anderson was recently named the founding dean of UC San Diego’s Wertheim School of Public Health. She is the first Black female dean in the nearly 60-year history of the campus.
- Maya Angelou was an American author, actress, screenwriter, dancer, poet and civil rights activist. Her 1969 memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman.
- Muriel Bowser is the second female Mayor of the District of Columbia and the first woman to be reelected to that position.
- London Breed was elected in 2018 as the first African-American woman mayor of San Francisco.
- Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress in 1968 at the height of the civil rights movement. She represented New York’s 12th District for seven terms and was the first Black woman to seek presidential candidacy with a major party.
- Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), leads one of the country’s most important national civil rights organizations in the pursuit of equal justice for all.
- Amanda Gorman is a published author and the first ever U.S. Youth Poet Laureate. She is the founder and Executive Director of One Pen One Page, which promotes literacy through free creative writing programming for underserved youth.
- NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson worked on the space agency’s first mission in 1961 to carry American Alan Shepard into space. In 1962, she verified computer calculations that plotted John Glenn’s orbits around the Earth.
- American abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman, who helped save more than 300 slaves via the Underground Railroad. She never learned to read, but she helped open schools for African Americans and spoke on behalf of women’s rights until the day she died.
Pass the Popcorn
COVID-19 has created an opportunity for binge-watching movies. Here are a few educational films about social injustice, racism and civil rights you definitely need to see.
- The Hate U Give is based on a book about a teenage girl who deals with racism, police brutality and activism after her black friend is murdered by the police.
- Just Mercy is the story of lawyer Bryan Stevenson and his history-making battle for justice for wrongly accused inmates on death row.
- The Golden Globe-nominated Selma focuses on the historic 1965 journey that Martin Luther King Jr. made from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in order to fight for equal voting rights for Black Americans.
- The documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am highlights the life and work experiences of Morrison, who was the first Black American writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993.
One More Thing
I may not have physically participated in the protests, but I was there in mind and spirit. I wholeheartedly agree with President Barack Obama’s words that Americans need “to work together to create ‘a new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”
What are you doing to ensure a hate-free and violence-free world? I’d love to hear!