MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been two months since George Floyd was killed. Since then, many Americans have had a nationwide reckoning and discussion about race.
So, what happens now? Christina from Marshall wrote to the Good Question saying, “I’m white.” Then, she asked what could she do to show her support for racial justice. We brought that question to people who have been doing racial justice work for years.
“I think the biggest thing we can do is educate our children, the next generation so they don’t repeat the mistakes we made in our generation,” said Reverend Edrin Williams of the Sanctuary Covenant Church.
He said support could mean interrupting blatant racism and not chalking it up to “oh, that’s just their generation.” It might also mean evaluating how a white person looks at the police — not a personal security force, but as a department that serves the entire community and how it can do that better.
“Even if it’s a painful conversation, it helps all of us,” Rev. Williams said.
For some people, their racial justice journey began during the protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Perhaps it was a donation or Black Lives Matter yard sign or social media post. Maybe it was reading an anti-racism book.
“That’s a beginning, it’s a start, but it’s not it,” said Rubén Vázquez, Vice President of Racial Justice and Public Policy at YWCA Minneapolis. “It’s really a journey, it’s not an endpoint. If anybody, especially white people, think, well, if I do all of these things, I’m going to get there. There does not exist.”
For Macalester professor Duchess Harris, support has to do with actions. When people ask her what they can do, she suggests looking around the room — whether it’s your church, your children’s school or your workplace.
“If you’re at a PTA meeting or community council meeting — ask yourself does everyone look like you. Does everyone fit in your demographic,” she said. “And, if the answer is yes, then what efforts are being made so that other people are even being made aware that meeting happened.”
Vázquez said it’s important for white people to do the justice work themselves, rather than rely on people of color to tell them what to do or how to do it. That could mean do a lot of learning and listening on their own.
“I’m just going to speak for myself, I’m willing to give the tools and resources and be there to answer questions, but you have to do that work, I’m not going to do it for you,” he said.
Marie Ellis with the Minnesota Council on Nonprofits said white people having conversations with their white friends and family about race is helpful.
“For a lot if us, we’re learning ideas for the first time, so they feel really new, but recognizing that other people have known these ideas for a long, long time,” Ellis said. “There is reading and writing and if we can share that with each other, that moves us ahead and takes the burden off people of color to teach us.”
Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches, said white people taking on this justice work shouldn’t be afraid to start because they might make a mistake or say the wrong thing.
“None of us want to make a mistake, but I’m saying you will make a mistake — you don’t know what you don’t know,” he said. “You have to step in it, you have to take some risks and the reality is if you do it with sincerity and you do your work and learning, people have a lot of grace.”
Sarah Bellamy, who been engaging people in racial justice work for years at the Penumbra Theater, said this is uncomfortable work for people beginning their journey. But not only, she said, do people need to listen, they sometimes need to be quiet and learn.
“Be willing, this is a really critical point, be willing when people give you critical feedback to take it in stride and not take it personally because other people might be more expert than you in that work,” she said.