Rainbow Center for Black Lives: Our Statement in Solidarity
As a white leader of a civil rights organization, I have been struggling with how to publicly respond to the very public murder of George Floyd. My friends and family of color are struggling in ways I couldn’t possibly understand, yet it is my responsibility, as someone who likely will never be treated the way Mr. Floyd was, and other countless people of color are treated daily, to stand beside people of color, Black and Brown people in particular, and own my unearned privilege and use it for positive change.
Locally, our hearts go out to the Tacoma Urban League, the Black Collective, the Tacoma NAACP, and other organizations designed to advance the work needed to move us to a more equitable community/world for Black people. The grief they are experiencing is likely incomprehensible to most of us, and is not new. Their grief has been built on decades and centuries of highlighted acts like George Floyd’s murder.
This occurs in the context of institutional racism that is alive and well in the United States. The reactions we are seeing across the country are not about this recent murder in isolation, but instead the reactions of people who have been trying to play by the rules of a game that is rigged from the start. This is why it is more important than ever for people to be outraged- all people, not just Black and Brown people. As long as the system is rigged the way it is, none of us should be satisfied, and we should all be outraged.
Thinking of the riots in particular, the LGBTQ population knows all too well how a swell of outrage can manifest itself when people are mistreated and diminished over and over again with no systemic change.
Dan Rather attempted to bring light on the real issue in a recent tweet: “This isn’t black vs. white. Anger and outrage is multiracial. It isn’t simply police vs. the people. In some areas they march together. This is about whether we as a society tolerate the divisions and injustices rooted in history and stoked by those benefiting from their existence.”
While it’s easiest to focus on whether the outcome of this particular incident favors history or justice is not ultimately the concern, it is actually systemic, institutional racism that needs focus right now. This will require legislative, and overall community change, to occur. For this to happen, we need to stay laser-focused on spotlighting institutional racism. This is difficult when there are so many distractions.
When the law quickly arrests those protesting, but the law protects systems and policies that discriminate on an ongoing basis, it is easy to be distracted and find some kind of “moral equivalency.” But there is no moral equivalency at play here. People explode because of systemic injustices, not because of single incidents. The single incidents are mere symptoms of a system that does not work for everyone- to the benefit of others.
It does not work for Black and Brown people, it does not work for LGBTQ people (which includes every sector of the Black and Brown communities), and it does not work for so many others who do their best to navigate a system that is rigged against them from the start. Feeling overwhelmed, communities are protesting and rioting and “we” act shocked by it. We should not be shocked by it. It is completely understandable, and we need to stop pretending it isn’t.
While we are not promoting violence, we are promoting outrage. Oppressed communities need to stick together and demand change, not fight among ourselves. It’s time for significant change in this country. For anyone who would dare suggest that it’s not the right time, you may want to ask “when would be the right time to establish or reinstate my rights and benefits as a US citizen?” The time is always right to advance justice for those who are systematically oppressed.
This is a call to action. We should not stand down until legislation and policy in policing, prosecution, prison systems, education systems, public assistance systems, workforce systems, and so many other systems change to unrig the game and level the playing field. It is our duty to communicate our outrage in an ongoing fashion with our local, state and federal legislators to make this happen.
As Frederick Douglass stated so long ago, “Power concedes nothing without demand. It never has, and it never will,” This is no less true today than it was 150 years ago. We all need to demand change- playing nice has not worked. Waiting for the arc of justice has not worked. It is time to unapologetically demand justice for everyone.
Racial reconciliation needs to occur in this country for any change to move forward, for any healing to begin, and for any of us to truly be free.
Rainbow Center is Black, Brown, and every other color, gender, religion, disability, income level, and age. We are not separate from those who are held back by institutional racism, we are those who are held back by institutional racism, and as an organization we say, enough is enough. It is time for action.
Troy, Tara, Rebecca, Laurie, Ed & Cass