“Yet the average white person also has a responsibility. He has to resist the impulse to seize upon the rioter as the exclusive villain. He has to rise up with indignation against his own municipal, state and national governments to demand that the necessary reforms be instituted which alone will protect him. If he reserves his resentment only for the Negro, he will be the victim by allowing those who have the greatest culpability to evade responsibility. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention. There is no other answer. Constructive social change will bring certain tranquility; evasions will merely encourage turmoil. Negroes hold only one key to the double lock of peaceful change. The other is in the hands of the white community.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
It has been a difficult few days. My prayers are for George Floyd’s family and the community of Minneapolis; a community that has been a second home to me over the past few years. My work there, alongside friends and comrades in the fight for equity and racial justice are in the thick of a rebellion against generations of compounded injustice and oppression at the hands of a corrupt and militarized police force. I pray for them today. I also check in with them to see how I and my community can support their efforts. Their struggle is our struggle. I could tell you the story of how I have been racially profiled twice by the police in the Twin Cities, but that is a similar story for a different day. I am blessed to still have breath. Too many breaths have gone silent. I pray for them.
I pray for the family of Breonna Taylor, a young black woman gunned down in her own apartment in the middle of the night in Louisville, KY by an overzealous and wrongly informed police force. I pray for my friends and allies in this state, most of which identify as white and have been working to address issues of racial injustice in that community for more than a generation.
I also think about Ahmaud Aubrey, gunned down a few streets over from his own neighborhood in broad daylight by two white men on his daily jog, while another white man filmed it all. If it wasn’t on video, we may have never known his name. How many others are nameless and faceless to us. While at the same time, all too real to the families and the loved ones they leave behind to drown in the sorrow and madness of the oldest form of U.S. domestic terrorism, White Terror!
I also pray for Tony McDade, a black trans man in Tallahassee, Florida, that was shot five times by the Tallahassee PD. Trans life matters.
Black Lives Matter. PERIOD.
Emphasis on the period, because people will try to justify Tony’s murder the same way they try to justify the murder of every black person, by picking through the details of their life to craft a narrative consistent with the one white media has painted of us since the beginnings of our interactions on this American soil. A narrative painted of insufficient humanity, of an embedded genetic criminal disposition, and an inferior intellect. All of these narratives justify the state to call for the unjust policing of our bodies and our intellect. I pray for the many protestors across the country standing on the frontlines confronting the nations’ second great atrocity, kidnapping and enslavement of African people.
As I watch cities burn across the country, I am reminded of the above quote from MLK. It reminds us that the burden of addressing the race problem in America lies with those that created it, continue to perpetuate it, and garner generational benefit from it politically, socially and financially. It is not people of color’s responsibility to comfort them as they either try to come to grips with or turn a blind eye to the grim reality of the role they play and have played in these deplorable and debilitating conditions we are facing in this current moment. The genocide and displacement of Native Americans, the kidnapping and enslavement of African peoples and the layers of inhumane and inequitable treatment of black and brown bodies are atrocities ingrained in the very fabric of this country, and until we come to terms with the compounded generational impact of these atrocities, it is virtually impossible for this nation to become whole.
Everyone has a position to play, but white people cannot grant freedom to the Black community. No one is coming to save us. Freedom can only be achieved by organizing our power into formations that are community-based, community-accountable, and grounded in liberation practices. We have to work together to save ourselves. This starts with us working together to create the communities we deserve, to create jobs not for financial gain or the building of generational wealth, but to build on the purpose of being in right relationship with the environment that we need to live and thrive. Black capitalism will not save us. Capitalism of any color is intrinsically linked to the exploitation of people and resources, and whether black, white, Asian, or Latinx, a system based in exploitation is incapable of creating systems of equity or generational health and wellness.
I live in a community that my family has been in for eight generations. My ancestors are both the enslaved and the plantation owners. My wife and I chose to raise our family here, amongst their family and their extended family because we think it is important that our children grow up surrounded by people that affirm their existence and celebrate them for being enough, being whole and complete even as the world attempts to convince them otherwise. Society will attempt to convince us that those in the streets are thugs and criminals, but we know better. We know that there is no safe way to be Black in America. My children know this. There is no greater reminder of our blackness than living in Mississippi. As parents, our intention is to fortify their growth with a healthy environment that can love them into adulthood, fully aware of the world they are inheriting, as well as, the one they are responsible for building and to remind them that they are enough. This is our work.
If you are looking for folks that can help you channel your rage into transformational practices then check out these resources. There are so many more resources. You just have to be willing to be changed.
The Southern Movement Assembly is an organizing process and a convergence space that centers the voices and experiences of grassroots leadership on multiple frontlines.
Showing Up for Racial Justice is committed to centering disability justice and poor/working-class organizers in our work.
The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB), is a national and international collective of anti-racist, multicultural community organizers and educators dedicated to building an effective movement for social transformation.
Carlton Turner is lead artist / director and co-founder of the Mississippi Center for Cultural Production (Sipp Culture). Sipp Culture uses arts and agriculture to support rural community, cultural, and economic development in his hometown of Utica, Mississippi. Carlton is a research fellow with the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and a former Ford Art of Change Fellow.