Houston Peace and Justice Center is committed to promoting peace, social justice, and nonviolent grassroots activism. In that promotion, from time to time there comes a compelling reason to speak strongly about justice issues involving the widespread institutional systemic racism and the violence surrounding it.
With the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing responses it seems time to advocate again for an end to the systemic racism that faces all people of color in our nation. While I understand that due process for police officer Derek Chauvin and the other officers involved has yet to be completed, we certainly strongly advocate that the investigation at the federal level be swift and unbiased. It is a fact that George Floyd is just the latest in a long list of men and women of color who have died at the hands of law enforcement. There has long been a need to understand that these are more than just anecdotal incidents, and the necessity to understand the motivations and the white privilege that allows these murders to continue needs to be eliminated. In fact, it is past time.
With regard to those who agree with the above but qualify it with the condemnation of the demonstrations that include looting and property destruction, I would ask you to think about what happens when a life no longer counts enough to consider the consequences. When people of color believe, with good reason, that their lives count not just as second class citizens, but that since the end of slavery, there has been a systemic strategy to insure they are kept from the prosperity and power availed most white people; there comes a time that waiting for justice means simply giving up. For all those people who have taken to the streets, we need to understand that this is an uprising of an oppressed people, and take a hard look at what part each of us plays in this. Are we a part of the solution or a part of the problem? As an old white woman who remembers the national guard in riot gear in the park across the street from my apartment in Kansas City in the 1960’s I am terrified that because we did not make the systemic changes needed then, the riots will be worse, and loss of life will continue because we have yet again allowed white privilege and racism to take a firm grip on the oppression of people of color that should have ended generations ago.
If you are reading this on the HPJC website you have probably come here looking for something, anything you might do to help end this now, and I wish I had more answers. Most members and constituents of HPJC have spent a lifetime trying to understand how white privilege can be mitigated within families whose heritage was oppression and racism, looking for ways we can be a part of the solution, not the problem. Having facilitated nonviolence training for many years I would encourage you to know your part. Understand what you consider violent and nonviolent and how it permeates your life, and begin to take stock of your language and your internalized racism, because believe me we all have it. Know your genetic history and understand where you are on the spectrum of guilt and/or denial. And most of all, take the next step to move forward from where you are right now. Take stock of your emotions and what fear holds you back from speaking out, or what comfort level you have that needs a little shove to move to the next level.
One of the best resources to help you through this process is The Center for the Healing of Racism. If you haven’t taken their course Dialogue: Racism, you should. If you have, take it again, because I can assure you it will take you to places in your understanding of racism that you have yet to discover. I am deeply indebted to this organization to helping me understand what is healing, and in the words of Cherry Steinwender, Co-Founder, just calling someone racist is not healing; nor is just pointing out systemic racism. Therefore, learning how to talk about this recent murder of George Floyd by Derek Chauvin in a way that leads to healing systemic racism is more important than ever. We must look at both men and the other law officers honestly and critically, while at the same time involving ourselves in the solution.
Other resources can be found on this website in our calendar of events, where you can find activities and events you might want to pursue. In the future HPJC hopes to develop a curriculum devoted to discussing where and how we can be a positive part of the solution to end systemic racism now. Gandhi said we all have a piece of the truth, and I believe when we come together to help each other discover our truths we will begin the process of ending this oppression called racism. With the future of group meetings in limbo due to COVID-19, we will need to evaluate what is safe, but if you would like to be a part of the development of this process, please contact me at 713-204-4010, text or call.