How George Floyd and Breonna Taylor Changed My Life
Updated: Feb 21, 2022
(White women’s tears postscript, a year later)
(Photo: Amira Stanley at the End White Supremacy event she led in Salem in April '21)
A year ago on May 28, I wrote an article on my personal blog called “The Weapons of White Women’s Tears,” reflecting on the Amy Cooper melodrama in Central Park occurring on the same day George Floyd was murdered. (Incidentally, I just read that the famous Amy Cooper is suing her former employer for firing her, arguing that she is a victim of racial discrimination. YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT!)
My article went viral when I shared it on LinkedIn, viewed by over 7,000 people, 155 likes, and 48 comments. The creeps who troll LinkedIn for the #diversityequityinclusion hashtag found it, too, and my teen son reassured me that I’ve made it when the trolls find me!
As a result of these twin incidents and the murder of Breonna Taylor, the world protested against Black lives being taken far too soon in #BlackLivesMatter protests. My city, Portland, saw over 150 consecutive days of protest, unfortunately marred by white anarchists and violence toward the end. I was proud of my city for standing up for justice.
Unfortunately, white people are still being Amy Coopers.
As Michael Harriot outlines in his article in theroot.com, “It Turns Out, All Those 'Woke' White Allies Were Lying,” white people did what we do best: showed up for attention and then abandoned the cause when it got too hard to sustain. Harriot points out that:
Businesses have donated less than one percent of the money they promised to spend on racial justice causes or diversity/equity/inclusion ($250 million versus the $50 billion they promised).
During the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, businesses were discussing “systemic racism” and Black Lives Matter ten times more than before. Many companies promised a greater focus on diversity and inclusion, but less than one-third of them examined racial pay disparity or set goals to change employee demographics.
Although Black and brown people support Black Lives Matter more than ever since George Floyd’s death, white people’s support has declined even lower than what it was a year ago.
White people just went back to being disappointing, once again.
I feel extremely lucky that my white women’s tears rant on LinkedIn was found by three amazing Black folks who I am now honored to call my friends:
Jackie Capers Brown in Columbia, South Carolina, host of the Go Be Great podcast
Charles Jackson II in Tampa, Florida, founder of Charles Jackson Media
Dennett Edwards in Washington DC, founder of Corona Daze Professional Development group
Jackie and Charles invited me to be on their podcasts and interview shows, and Dennett invited me to join her Corona Daze Professional Development group, which provides career training and professional resources for diverse talent. Thanks to Jackie and Charles’ inspiration and encouragement, I decided to use my platform to center underrepresented voices on my own podcast, and Jackie, Charles, and Dennett were some of my first guests. I've continued to have further conversations with Charles, who's invited me back to his show a few times. He's now writing a book about his life as a Black man.
My Black friends have been sharing this week how their lives have been changed as a result of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
I listened to Brene Brown’s great interview with Emmanuel Acho (of “Conversations with a Black Man” fame) this week, and he too swung into action after George Floyd’s death, in spite of plenty of people trying to stop him from initiating hard conversations with white people.
Many now dedicate their lives to racial justice in some sort of professional or activist way, like another new friend Amira Stanley, who I met last year on Zoom but finally got to hug in real life (as well as Libra Forde, who I interviewed on my podcast) in April at an amazing event ("End White Supremacy") she organized in Salem, Oregon. My life, too, has changed dramatically:
My Black and brown community has widened dramatically thanks to podcasting and activism.
I’ve had the honor of discussing racism, privilege, policing, and other related issues on my podcast. I do not take this privilege lightly, because people of color have no reason to trust me as a white woman.
I’ve discovered my favorite people to interview are Black women. Starting out with Olive Bukuru Kabura, who told me that she wished people didn’t think she was angry when she expresses that her life matters, I have loved my interviews with amazing Black women like Dennett Edwards, Libra Forde, Jewels Pedersen, Jackie Capers-Brown, Raina Casey, Joy Fowler, AmiCietta Clarke, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Nono Osuji, and Danielle Meadows-Stinnett. They are always the most insightful, dynamic interviews, and I’m grateful to each of these women for sharing their life stories, baring their souls, and giving of themselves on the pod waves.
Race and racism are constantly on my mind. I’ve become even more sensitive to the plight of people of color because of the relationships I’ve developed and my own continued self-education. Not thinking about race and racism is a luxury only white people have.
I’ve become braver at challenging racism and lack of representation when I see it, although this is always an area for improvement. I am not a lover of conflict, so of course it makes me uncomfortable. I realize I am being called to get more comfortable feeling uncomfortable for the sake of the Black people and other people of color I love.
My life has been greatly enriched by these new friendships. If you are a white person who thinks about how difficult it is to find friends and collaborators of color, you need to be more creative. The pandemic has cracked this wide open. Podcasting has sped up this process for me, but you don’t have to be a podcaster to diversify your community. Here are some suggestions:
Join online groups working for racial justice. Listen for a very long time before you speak.
Advocate and agitate, like my friend Andrea Metheney, who heard a white family joking about a Black family in Target and confronted them. SHE IS A BADASS. I want to be like Andrea when I grow up! Don’t just speak up when there’s a Black or brown person around to hear you. Speak up whenever you hear racism or prejudice.
Follow thought leaders of color on social media and sign up for their courses and email lists.
Look for ways to volunteer to benefit communities of color in person and online. Don’t just look to receive; your intentions must be reciprocal. Why would anyone want to be your friend if you just take and ask to be educated?
If you’re a business professional, sign up with Dennett Edwards’ Corona Daze Professional Development group or other organizations to volunteer your services.
Donate directly to Black and brown people—or organizations benefiting them--without placing any conditions or expectations on your donation.
If you work in an organization, lobby your leadership for diversity goals and better representation…and ask your colleagues of color how you can help be a better advocate. (But know that they might not want or need your help.)
Join a public advisory committee or organization working to improve the lives of people of color.
Shop in Black and brown neighborhoods and support their businesses.
Try to view situations and the world through a Black or brown lens instead of your own lens of white privilege. Don’t make it about you. Be kind. Be sensitive. Be respectful. And continue to fight for racial justice.
George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, you have blessed the world with your lives and inspired change. I’m grateful for the ways you graced our lives and expanded our world. I’ll leave you with this poem by Black poet Lucille Clifton:
they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
and i keep on remembering
And absorb this beautiful, incredible, 9-minute meditation in honor of George Floyd by my beautiful, inspirational, and incredible friend Amira Stanley.
I am thankful to every single person in the Black community who has shared their generosity of spirit with me in the past year. You are magic, and you matter.