That is what my husband told me.
“Huh?” I responded.
He repeated again.
“If they kill me, don’t settle.”
“Don’t take the money.”
“They have to be held responsible.”
This is a conversation between my husband (a black man) and me (a white woman). The conversation took place in our home. We had just found out that Eric Garner’s wife had agreed to a settlement.
No judgment toward the surviving wife. She did what she thought was best.
But my husband is asking me to do differently.
And I’m so stuck in my own whiteness that I’m still in shock that this is a real conversation that I have to have with my real husband in my real house in my real life.
My husband has to tell me:
Because we live in a nation where black men are viewed and treated as dangerous and threatening.
Being black in America is a dangerous thing.
Not because of who black people are but because of who white people are.
It doesn’t matter if you are walking in your own neighborhood (Trayvon Martin), trying to provide for your family (Alton Sterling), hanging with your friends listening to music (Jordan Davis), chilling on the street (Eric Garner), playing in a public park (Tamir Rice), comply with police instruction (Sandra Blanton), try to run away (Michael Brown), sit in the car with your four year old child (Philando Castile), or are even in police custody (Freddie Gray).
It doesn’t have to do with what black people are doing or not doing.
It has to do with what white people are doing and not doing.
White people, whether intentionally or not, are acting out of bias/racism/profiling/prejudicing/privilege.
White people, whether personally killing someone or not, are often standing by – complacent and thus compliant.
So as my husband told me, now I want to tell you, especially to my fellow white people:
Don’t settle for an America that doesn’t reflect your multicultural values.
Don’t settle for an America that doesn’t value the sanctity of human life.
Don’t settle for an America that doesn’t hold white people responsible for their crimes against black people.
Don’t settle for an America that doesn’t acknowledge the historical and contemporary racist systems and culture.
Don’t settle for an America that doesn’t take police brutality seriously.
Don’t settle for an America that insists that black people are dangerous.
Don’t settle for an America that sleeps through this horror.
I am a white woman who will not settle because I don’t want to see my husband killed, my pastor killed, my cousins killed, my friends killed, or my neighbors killed.
And I’m calling on other white people to stop standing by complacent and thus compliant.
Below are ten actionable ideas from my friend and mentor Marybeth Gasman:
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