George Floyd Protests Confronting Intolerable Systemic Anti-Black Racism

When it comes to responding to racism, there has never been a worse time to claim you don’t understand what the protests are about or that you don’t know what to do.

By Ryan McGreal

Posted June 01, 2020 in Blog (Last Updated June 01, 2020)

The anti-racism protests unfolding around the world are an entirely understandable outpouring of grief and rage and determination from people who have had enough of being systematically and repeatedly discriminated against, targeted, harassed, affronted, assaulted, traumatized, tortured and murdered with impunity by the agents of a racist, white supremacist culture that sees only the colour of their skin.

In just the past several days, white vigilantes hunted down and lynched a black man for jogging in his own community; police brutalized and lynched a black man accused of passing a counterfeit bill; and a white woman weaponized the police against a black man who politely asked her to put her dog on a leash.

Each of these injustices and atrocities echoed and recalled all the similar injustices and atrocities that continue to play out day after day, week after week and year after year. George Floyd was not the first person to beg a police officer not to murder him with the words, "I can't breathe," and he likely won't be the last.

And these protests are happening during an infectious disease pandemic that is disproportionately falling on people of colour and on poor and working-class people, whom the government has decided are expendable as they rush to re-open the economy long before the disease is under control.

Even worse, the government is bowing to pressure from angry white men who storm state capital buildings with assault rifles and scream in police officers' faces and are called heroes and very fine people by the openly white supremacist president.

Let's be clear: it is not my place to lecture a traumatized community from my position of unearned white male privilege about how they ought to stand up for themselves against being literally hunted down and murdered. Yet it needs to be pointed out that the protests have been passionate and intense and overwhelmingly non-violent.

The dignity and restraint of these non-violent protests is remarkable in the face of what they are protesting - especially in comparison to the anti-lockdown protestors demanding a haircut and equating wearing a face mask with tyranny.

Where there has been violence, much of it has been a reaction to the violent, authoritarian police over-reaction to the protests, and much of it has also been deliberately provoked and inflicted by agents provocateurs and by white supremacists agitating for a race war.

In addition, malicious actors hoping to sow as much fear and chaos as possible have been flooding social media with fake imagery (like a widely circulated photo of a burning McDonalds that was actually from a fire in 2016) and other divisive propaganda to make the protests seem a lot more violent than they are.

And of course, violence is more 'exciting' than peaceful protest so the news media disproportionately focus on violent acts instead of representing the protests more accurately and comprehensively.

Remember: the loudmouth pundits decrying violence the most obnoxiously today are many of the same people who castigated racialized athletes for silently kneeling with great humility to protest police brutality. Their hypocritical outrage is born of entitlement.

As anti-racists argue, it is impossible to be neutrally or passively not-racist in a racist system. You are either working to dismantle the racist system or else you are supporting the continuation of that system. It is incumbent on all of us - and particularly on white people who experience the unearned benefits of white privilege in a racist culture - to commit to being actively anti-racist instead of standing by and being a bystander to racism.

There has never been a worse time to claim you don't know what to do. If you can read this post, a world of resources is at your disposal: begin by googling "how to be an anti-racist" and start getting educated. Learning to become an anti-racist is the work of a lifetime, and it can start today.