I killed George Floyd. I didn’t put my knee on his neck, but I, a white man of privilege, did not do enough to stop his murder from “becoming”. I am complicit in the crimes of systemic racism in America. For my entire adult life I thought trying to not be a racist was enough. I was wrong. We all were wrong.
Like many others, I thought I did the right things. I risked my college scholarship getting arrested for protesting South African apartheid. I admitted to myself that I see people of different colors differently, and challenged myself to overcome that prejudice. I voted for candidates who supported equality. My wife and I taught our kids to be kind, empathetic, and stand up for what is right, not what is easy. I asked employers to prioritize diversity in hiring. I over-steered financial aid money to families of color in my tuition-paying school. I donated to groups doing the hard work of social justice. I got angry when bad cops killed innocent Black Americans.
It turns out that none of that was even close to being enough to keep George Floyd from being killed, or from turning the tide of systemic racism in America. I did not understand that not being a racist is not enough. I did not think about the real differences between not being racist and actively being anti-racist. Had I thought enough about it, I’m afraid I still would have misunderstood the difference.
For those who read this blog and say, “Get over yourself, Grant; this is not about you” , I appreciate that, and thank you. I humbly hope you will help me find a way to do better than I have done in the past, while ensuring that it is not about me.
I’m used to solving problems, to finding the right lever to press. I know we have to move from talking to action, and from small actions to actions at scale. I know that the path to ending racism in America involves a completely new level of commitment. But I don’t know how. By definition, as an old white man, I don’t know how.
So for now, I am doing two things. First, I am trying to be a much better listener; trying to hear what I have not heard well enough from Black Americans in the past before I pretend that I even know the problems we are trying to solve. I am grateful for resources like this first in a video series from Emmanuel Acho, “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man“, and this “Letter to America” from Lisa Leslie.
Second, I am asking for forgiveness for being complicit in the murder of George Floyd; for being complicit in the murder of so many other innocent Black Americans; for being complicit in the ongoing, daily abuses that Black Americans suffer that White Americans don’t. No, I did not commit those crimes and abuses myself, but if I and 190 million other White Americans had done more, many of those murders and abuses would not have taken place.
I have failed and am trying to find a way to do better. I am guilty, and am trying to figure out how to align redemption and meaningful action. I do know one thing: no matter who you vote for or what you believe in, your heroes and mine have one thing in common. When needed, they did not sit on the sidelines.