With compassion and conviction, I joined more than 400 activists lining along both sides of the street for almost a half-mile to stand up against racism and police brutality on May 31 in Dedham, Massachusetts. The event, organized by Dedham’s Anti-Racism Coalition, is one of many civil uprisings happening in cities and towns across America.
The call for action is an immediate response to the death of George Floyd, a black man who was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day. In a shocking viral video, Floyd begs for his life with his neck trapped under the officer’s knee for over eight minutes. That officer, and three others, now face charges.
Floyd’s murder was caught on video, but it’s not uncommon for black people to experience police brutality. Protesters are outraged by the senseless killing of Floyd and all black lives as well as a long history of discrimination.
COVID-19 serves as the backdrop. At least in the Dedham event, participants adhered to social distancing guidelines by wearing masks and positioning themselves six feet apart from one another.
Passing cars honked their horns to show support. Aside from the intermittent chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Their Names,” protesters remained silent in solidarity throughout the hour-long demonstration. One young black man solemnly took a knee.
People of diverse generations and backgrounds stood together including many children and families. While there were black and white protesters, most were white, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
Activists raised signs with powerful messages: “White silence is violence,” “If they can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” and “Enough.” One white man’s sign summed it up, “I understand that I will never understand. Still, I stand.”
Racism manifests in our criminal justice system, the disproportionate toll of poverty and disease in black and brown communities and the inequity of education, services and opportunities in underserved communities. Systemic and institutional racism is not black people’s problem, it’s everyone’s problem.
White privilege is real. White people do not walk out into the world and experience fear, hatred or suspicion based on the color of their skin.
We need to wake up from our ignorance and examine our own views and actions. Together, black and white and all races, must fight for diversity, inclusion, equality, justice, respect, love and peace.
Our humanity binds us. We have work to do, and change starts now.
Watch a video produced by Maxwell Surprenant: