Starting A Riot Inside of Us
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
I woke up this morning to see the news of my old neighborhood in Minneapolis burning in protest at the senseless and violent death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. The protests are about more than George Floyd’s death. They’re also about the continued dismissal of Black lives, Black pain and suffering. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” What recourse have we (I use ‘we’ to mean white people) given people whose lives we continue to ignore and dismiss? We repeatedly watch Black people murdered and we continue to support systems that fuel injustice while we go on with our day. We watch videos of Black deaths like our ancestors used to picnic at public lynchings.
If you spend time on any social media platform and follow Black leaders, you’ll see that the majority of their posts implore white people to wake up, to do something. They do this because they know that for white supremacy to end it will take the work of white people to dismantle these systems that we’ve built. Imagine spending your time and energy trying to move people to be humane enough to take action so that you can live in peace and not fear for your life every moment of every day.
I’ve written about my own work to dismantle my internal racism in past blog posts. My internalized racism is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to confront about myself. I’ve struggled with breaking through my need to be thought of as a good white person, someone who follows the rules of whiteness and doesn’t rock the boat. I know I must capsize the boat if I’m to become the person I want to be, someone who honors the full humanity of every human being. I don’t know of any other way for us to dismantle white supremacy and face our own racism than by doing our inner work. Educating yourself about the history of race in America is important. Following Black leaders is important. But I believe there really is no better way to start eliminating the racist air we all breathe from the time we are born in this country than to do your inner work. The more we strip away our past shame and pain, the more compassionate we become, first to ourselves and then to others.
When you read the news accounts of a Black person senselessly murdered, look inward. What do you feel in your body? What don’t you feel? As white people, we are taught to numb ourselves to the pain of Black suffering and death. White supremacy strips everyone of their full humanity. We each need to start a riot in our own hearts, minds and bodies if we are to eliminate white supremacy and end the senseless violence against Black people. Once we’ve started that internal riot and we keep that riot stoked, it will become impossible to remain a good white person who sits on the sidelines and watches fellow human beings die senseless deaths.