I am a white woman who has grown up with much privilege. I’ve known this for a long time, but watching a Minneapolis police officer press his knee into George Floyd’s neck on May 25 reiterated the point. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks educating myself, donating to nonprofits, and I went out to a protest Saturday to show my support and talk with others. Before I went, I wrote three words on a piece of cardboard: “Black Lives Matter.” It felt almost silly writing something that should be common sense, but that’s the world we’re living in today.
At the protest, which included around 200 people, I talked with three black women about why they were out there and what this movement means to them. This week for my column, I’m sharing some of what they told me, because their voices need to be heard right now much more than mine.
My black skin is scary to people. For me, every day is a protest, just existing really. This protest was even more powerful with my friends. A lot of them are not black, and for them to show solidarity and to really step up as allies was huge. I think it was equally as important for them to get out here and do what they can, use their privilege. I think it's important for white people to use their privilege to spread this message, because black people have been fighting this fight for a very long time, and we can't fight it alone. It obviously took the whole world to get four people charged. That's really sad. That just goes to show how much people don't want to listen to the Black Lives Matter message. And that's really sad and disheartening.
I was born at the end of the civil rights movement. At the school I went to, I was taught I was only three-fourths of a person. I was the only African American in the whole high school in Salem, Oregon. It was a Mennonite school. We didn’t have dances, but we had banquets, and I couldn’t go with anybody at the school because they didn't believe in the mix of race. It was a really, really difficult time.
So this is a great opportunity for me to teach my daughter (Amina, who was also at the protest) that, even though there are people that say that color matters, look around you. This crowd is saying, “You know what? It doesn't matter. We are all humans.” I love it. I was telling my friend how this made me cry because I came out here and I'm still the minority, but everybody is supporting each other. It's incredible. I mean there's different colors, different sexualities, different genders. It's amazing. It's sad that we have to fight for this issue. But it's great to see that we can come together and stand for each other.
I’m out here today to help support the cause, to help raise awareness. Yesterday I was actually at Santa Monica City Hall. I just went around talking to groups of police the whole day and having conversations with them about the system. I actually listened to them and what they had to say, and they listened to me and what I had to say. It just felt so empowering to actually talk to them. I wish we would do that more, because I noticed a lot of people weren't talking. When you talk to them and you recognize their humanity, they recognize your humanity, too. And if everybody recognizes that then it's really hard to abuse someone. When you recognize that they're a living, breathing human being, how are you going to dehumanize them? All the cops loved me after that. They were like, “You made me think of this in a different way.” Actually talking to them has a much bigger impact than just hurling insults at them. This is what happens when you build a relationship. This is what happens when you acknowledge each other's humanity.
Barbara Platts can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media @BarbaraPlatts.