One year.

May 25th marks one year since Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds.

In this year there has been a lot of talk. Being “woke” is the new norm. We all went to webinars on Redlining, Gerrymandering, and the history of slave-catching militias as the basis for modern policing. We bought all those books that we probably never finished. The perfect storm of COVID-19 unemployment gave people time to pay attention and be vocal about our systemic and societal failures, underscoring (to the astute) the near-total control that corporate powers normally exercise on our lives.

Most importantly, we were able to widely recognize the structural status-quo of white supremacy as something that was done on purpose, and is being maintained on purpose, rather than an unfortunate stain on our nation’s past that would have faded by now if we stopped looking at it. But HOW can we translate this progress into concrete, long-term change? The BLM movement made history across the globe and under this mountain of pressure, Chauvin was convicted. We paused for a brief, hourlong acknowledgment of “justice” before hearing that Daunte Wright had been murdered literally as the Chauvin trial took place. I see dozens of “blue lives matter” posts a day. Sometimes I feel like we are back at square one.

LMM staff have been holding a monthly Zoom call named “Continuing Conversations on Racism”.  I have read the accounts of strangers and listened to them onscreen, but it hits different when it’s someone you know personally. I am honored to be part of a community that is holding space for these conversations and centering the stories and experiences of POC staff. I hear you. I see you. Thank you for bringing your whole self to LMM, day in and day out.

And even still we are falling behind. Just last week, my coworker was literally run off the road by a pickup flying the confederate flag. “I’m shocked” I texted back. “That’s so dangerous”. “It’s not the first time this has happened to me” they replied. I helplessly promised to always drive when we go somewhere for work. I was furious at my inability to change that event or to even bring retribution.

Until “White Culture” sees racism as a white problem, there will be no change. Until white people collectively move to change the systems that are enforcing white supremacy, there will be no change. Until our government is truly beholden to We the People instead of to the highest bidder, there will be no change.

At the end of each conversation, someone always asks “what can I do?”

Here are some ideas:

Keep fighting. Keep making space. Keep centering marginalized voices. Keep supporting reparations initiatives and other progressive legislation that explicitly address systemic injustices. Keep loving your neighbor as yourself. Keep spreading the word. Keep yourself healthy and dedicated to this marathon. Your work has just begun.

 

Elizabeth Stiles, LMM Academic Program Manager