Good day Ms. Reeder,
I found your editorial to be well written and articulate on the topic of the ongoing global demonstrations and protests in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers. I think that you raise and note some very important points and shed light on some of the events good and bad that have so far occurred. Thank you for that.
With that being said however, and I state the following as a 65-year-old white male, I do take exception to some of your words. My caution to you is that as a “white person” you have inherent biases as I do that can cloud your views. I highly doubt that you and your ancestors are victims of 400 years of oppression, suppression, systemic violence and hatred of you based on the color of your skin. Therefore, when you weigh in on and pass judgement on those who “act out” violently such as looting and damaging property, you do it through the lenses of “white privilege,” which says to me you really do not understand and cannot understand the rage that exists in people of color whose life experiences are so much different from yours. I do not condone violence such as rioting, looting and violence against others, but I do try and step back and attempt to understand it and feel empathy.
You are right about what you wrote and included in your editorial regarding the words of George Floyd’s brother. In that situation he is the only person who could have said those words, both as a relative and as a black man. I believe it will take time to sort out the variety of sources that involved themselves in the rioting, looting and ensuing violence that has occurred. Right now, there are numerous theories stemming from both sides of the political spectrum. The truth is yet to be known.
I truly like your paragraph that started out, “The truth remains that this country has made terrible mistakes in the past…” Being able to admit to and own up to our “white peoples” mistakes from the past is a step in the right direction. The only “oops” moment for me in what you wrote by slipping in the, “white people who fought and died in the Civil War.” I do not understand why you had to make that distinction unless it is meant to let white people off the hook for the evils of slavery. If we are to truly honor and respect racial equality and racial justice, then as white people let’s do it without having to put ourselves out front. This is just a cautionary response I have that as white people we often without meaning to and also often intentionally place ourselves out front because historically that is where we have always been. Maybe it is time to step back and remove ourselves from the equation as always having to qualify ourselves as the sole leader of change. We have to remove the lenses from which we see the world and our place in it. This does not mean we as white people do not have a role in change; let’s just not assume that we have more of an important role than in fact we do.
Just because a “white person” voted for former President Barack Obama does not mean they are not racist. In turn, just because Obama was voted into office twice does not mean America as a nation is no longer a racist nation. Just ask the millions of people worldwide who on May 25, on Memorial Day, witnessed a white police officer, one whom swore an oath to serve and protect, snuff out the life of a “black man.” In fact, this has happened hundreds of times, if not more. We as white people can be appalled, but in the vast majority of cases, we only have to witness it not actually experience it.
You said, “We need to keep listening to each other and keep moving forward.” I couldn’t agree with you more. And as when you went on to say, “We need to root out the wrongs and have the courage to call it out when we see it.” I say yes, and that means to me that I have to constantly be on guard so that I do not react to or form a judgement or opinion that is biased by my “white privilege” and in fact misses the message of those who are oppressed and are looking for a voice and in turn the equality that is supposed to be assured in the Constitution, when it said, “A nation of free people no matter our skin color, with inalienable rights given to us by God alone and justice for all.”
There are “good people who are honest and willing to confront wrongs at every level.” As white people we need to remember that our “whiteness” alone does not guarantee or make us good and honest. We have to earn that distinction, just like we require that of people of color. The litmus test for us as white people is do we require a higher standard of “goodness and honesty” for people of color than we do for white people?
These truly are unprecedented and challenging times. We as a people, as a nation and as a world have an opportunity to as you say “keep listening and moving forward.” I pray that we do, and that we use this moment in time to search our souls and find the goodness within us all.
I thank you again for your editorial and the opportunity to respond to it. I pray that you and your loved ones remain safe. Blessings to you and yours.
Lawrence James Coonradt