Once again, another Black man has been murdered by officers who are supposed to uphold the law. Another man who was a son, a brother, a father, a lover. And once again, I am at a loss for words. I am unable to express my sadness to family members because most will say racism doesn’t exist, that there is more to the story. Is there more to the story when a life is lost? This man’s name was George Floyd.
In my late teens and early twenties, I didn’t white privilege or oppression. I had never experienced police brutality and while I had black boyfriends, they never talked to me about racism. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle and met my long-time partner that I started to understand what these things were and how they affected the lives of thousands of people.
Since the beginning of the United States, Indigenous peoples were moved off their lands, murdered and raped. Black people were forced into slavery, murdered and raped. Latinx people were claimed as illegal even though much of the southern parts of America were part of Mexico at one time. They also were murdered and raped. In the years after, laws were enacted that continuously criminalized, and still criminalizes, race. Lisa Cacho says that “you need race to criminalize.” We can’t register when white people are committing a crime but we can when it is a person of color because of Cacho’s theory of social death. For a white person, it is easier to say there is more to the story because, why would an officer of the law kill a criminal in cold blood unless he was in harms way? I used to ask myself this same question. I was naive to ask this and I definitely didn’t understand fear.
One night, my partner left my apartment and then had to go to the hospital. He was in the ER most of the day and I didn’t know. All I knew was that I couldn’t get ahold of him. My heart stopped. Is this is it? Is this the day that I get the call that he is gone, that he is another name on the long list of Black men who have died at the hands of police brutality? He was fine, nothing had happened. But I understand that fear now, the fear that grips a mother every time her child walks out the door. Is this the last time she will see him because of the color of his skin? But I haven’t lived that every day of my life like every person of color has.
This fear is crippling and my family, because of their white privilege will never understand it. Let me explain white privilege in layman’s terms. A white person will almost always be taken into custody alive, even when resisting. There will never be questions about if there was more to the story if they are killed. A white person, especially a white male, will never experience racism. They will never be turned away from a job because of their name. The only thing close enough to this type of fear is what mothers and lovers of soldiers experience when they go on a deployment, but that still isn’t the same.
A Black solider can come home from deployment and be killed by a police officer. A police officer can kill a Black person in their own home without making sure it is the right address, the right people. Every time he leaves my apartment, I pray he makes it home to his children, that the wrong cop never pulls him over. When he goes to work, I pray he never has the cops called on him when he is delivering packages and groceries.
It is time for feminists, especially white feminists, listen to these calls for justice. We need to stand behind people of color and stop focusing on one issue at a time. We need to redefine feminism so that it no longer focuses on “white people problems.” We need it to include calls to action for police brutality and all types of oppression. As Julieta Paredes Carvajal writes in her article “Dissidence and Communitarian Feminism” we need to continue to raise “our left fists because the system has not bee defeated, because the system continues to hurt our bodies, the bodies of our brothers and nature.” White feminists need to stand up for their brothers and sisters of color or else feminism will never accomplish the change we need in this country. It is time we stop being white feminists and start being feminists who smash the patriarchy in all its pieces.