Sunday, May 31, 2020

It's Not Too Much To Ask, Is It?

I read a book a couple of years ago titled Waking Up White by Debbie Irving where she writes about her life of privilege that allowed her to ignore the hardships of others different than herself. Once realizing that she was indeed privileged, she set out to try and more clearly understand the ways in which her privilege manifested itself in her life while at the same time helping her to gain a better understanding of the struggles of others who don't share a similar privilege because of their skin color. It was eye-opening for me and dovetailed well with what has been an ongoing effort in my own life over the past dozen years or more to try and see the world through eyes other than my own. A practice that has revealed in me my own tendency to be ignorant of others' struggles.

I'm a work in progress.

Before reading Waking Up White, I already understood that my life was one of privilege but I had never taken the time to try and put myself in the shoes of someone who wasn't so fortunate, at least not in a way that challenged me. I began to wonder what it must be like to live with the heavy burden that because of my skin color, people were making hurtful, inaccurate judgments of me. It's a thought-provoking, worthwhile exercise to undertake. The problem with it, though, is that I'll oftentimes move too quickly on to other thoughts in my head and I'm back to enjoying my life of privilege. I don't think any of us who aren't a person of color can truly know what it's like to live under the never-ending specter of racial animus. It's a burden and I can't imagine what that would do to my psyche over time. It has to be demoralizing no matter how strong a person may be.

I encourage you to do the same—to try and imagine life as a person of color and under the judgment of others and what that might feel like. Unending.

#livingwhileblack

I rode my bike into South Minneapolis Thursday morning to have a look for myself at the scene where George Floyd was murdered under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that led me there.

As I approached the area I slowed to a stop and observed for a few minutes before getting off my bike and slowly walking around what was a surreal scene with people quietly leaving memorials and paying their respects to George. Pedestrians traversed the intersection while people in vehicles patiently waited for a break. A few people were painting a mural of George on the south wall of the Cup Foods store that George was murdered in front of. A group of 3 men stood around a motorcycle, talking about injustices at the hands of police that they'd witnessed. A minister stood on a corner of the intersection next to me, live-streaming his thoughts to (I assume) his Facebook followers. And then, out of nowhere, it hit me and I found my heart in my throat as I stood in front of this small memorial. I had no connection to this man other than a human one yet there I was on the verge of shedding tears for him. Senseless racism had taken another one of theirs from them and I felt terrible.

Colin Kaepernick taking a knee on the football field during the national anthem in a quiet protest of police brutality was too much for many of you. Conservatives ridiculed him and accused him of being unpatriotic, never once agreeing that maybe the man has a point. He does. Peaceful protests in the streets by those standing up to the violence and marching in George's memory were met with tear gas and rubber bullets while just weeks earlier, hundreds of white protesters, some armed, gathered inside Michigan’s state capitol protesting the closing of stores during the pandemic. They were met with no violence whatsoever. I'm tired of the hypocritical double-standard that black Americans are faced with each and every day, and I'm tired of family and friends of mine who still don't get it. It's disheartening.

I spoke with the minister after his live-stream. He warned me not to go near the scene of the previous night's riots 3 miles to the east, saying there was still a fair amount of unrest there. I considered his advice but decided to have a look for myself. I figured I could approach the area slowly enough to survey it and make a determination if it was safe. It was.

I went one block out of my way to check on Glass Endeavors where I purchase my stained glass supplies. My heart sank when I saw that one of their front windows had had a cinder block thrown through it. I chatted with Zoi while she worked to clean up the mess. I prayed the shop would survive the coming nights' unrest.

I didn't see any unrest that the minister had warned me of. Instead, I found people walking around in seeming disbelief at what had become of the area. Again, I got off my bike and walked slowly around the area, surveying the damage which was extensive. The AutoZone store was a complete loss with only the front door left mostly still standing while the rest of the building had collapsed. Helpful people worked the area with trash bags picking up what they could, trying to make the best of an awful and sad situation.

The only tension I saw was from a group of people facing off against a phalanx of police, venting their anger at them. Additional police overlooked the crowd from the rooftop of the 3rd precinct police department. The building's windows had been broken out in the previous night's melee. The building would go up in flames later that night—just so unimaginable to me as I stood there in that moment.

There was more to see but I'd seen enough. I got on my bike and began the ride home, somewhat numb—my mind trying to process all I'd seen. How would this play out in the days to come? How would it end?

I have so much to say about all of this but I suppose this is enough for now. I process things best when I write in my blog and I still have so much about what is unfolding all across our country that I need to understand.

Here's a collection of photos from the 38th St and Chicago Ave intersection as well as the Minnehaha Ave and Lake St intersection.

I put together a video of my ride and some of what I saw. If you've seen my ride videos before you'll know that I typically begin and end them in the same place, be it in my driveway or a parking lot; it's my signature of sorts I suppose. It seemed to take on a different feel with this video, though, as I left my world of white privilege and traveled into the inner city, to an area of devastation and sadness before returning to the relative safety I take mostly for granted. It caused me to pause and reflect when I saw it in that light.

The people I observed Thursday morning were sweet people simply in need of respect, fairness, and justice; nothing more than what most of us take for granted. It's not too much to ask, is it?

That's all I've got.




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