As Minneapolis Settles with the Floyd Family: Have We Become a Better Country?

Kerry Kerr McAvoy

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As city of Minneapolis agrees to pay the family of George Floyd's a settlement of $27 million dollar, I wondered if we've changed. If we have faced the horrible travesty of racial injustice.

I still remember watching the replays of George Floyd’s death with horror. How could this have happened in the United States? Yet, this kind of injustice has never stopped. Racism goes deep in our country, and we have the unconscionable habit of covering it up.

As the pandemic comes to a close, will we remember the lessons we've learned over the past year? That we are equally vulnerable to something invisible like vral infections:? The importance the role of community plays in our lives? Will we remember what George Floyd's death has shown us about our racial biases and prejudices?

I'm embarrassed to admit I needed many of these lessons. It took this terrible loss for me to get a glimpse into my legacy of privilege.

But as part of privileged white America, I didn't know I’ve been a part of the silent majority. The first week following the tragedy of Floyd’s death, I did and said nothing. Not for lack of motivation, but because I didn’t know what to do, how I could make a difference.

As a child of the 1960s in rural white America, I am familiar with prejudice. Racial bigotry saturated my hometown community. Anyone with a foreign last name or who had darker skin stood out as an oddity. Although it embarrassed me, I felt powerless to change it, so I did nothing. I thought not being a part of the problem was doing something. I couldn’t see how my apathy contributed to the bigger issue.

I met a black person for the first time when I was twelve, and first had a black friend at 18. Her name was Rose. I was proud to be Rose’s friend. So enlightened. Such sentiment and shallowness now make me sick.

Looking back, I see now how blind I’d been to the realities of this young woman’s life. She was one of the only African-American students on a campus of over three thousand. I wonder what it was like for her to eat, sleep, and attend class with well-off white kids. I never met her family or took her home to mine. Did anyone invite her to their house? Probably not. And the worst part is that I didn’t know any better.

Recently I stood in the grocery store checkout line across from a black cashier. He joked with me as I paid for my food. It crossed my mind that I should say something. I should to let him know that I care and want to be a part of the solution.

All the words died in my mouth, sounding stupid. And at that moment it hit me. I’m just another Elena Richardson, from the book and TV series Little Fires Everywhere, with all my “highfalutin” wishes that only result in more of the same. And as I stood and stared at him, I realized my desire to reach out sounded trite and shallow. It only succeeded in revealing my ignorance rather than providing real help and support.

I’ve only recently become aware that black mothers worry about their sons returning home safe. How could I have not known this? As a mom of three grown boys, I can’t imagine worrying mine might not make home simply because of the color of their skin. The senselessness of this stress is unacceptable. But what is even more shocking is my complete lack of awareness that so many moms contend with this real and daily fear.

My white privilege is a cloak I wear, but I don’t know how to let it drop. It permeates all aspects of my life. How do I bridge the gap it creates? What can I do or say that will make an impactful contribution to this societal discourse?

I long for this country to experience real change. For it to become one that Ibram X. Kendi describes as anti-racist.

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The concern is legitimate that once the country’s unrest eases, life will return to its previous normal. I sure hope not. I understand the worry, though, since I’m facing my impotence on how to make a difference.

I think it needs to start in my heart. We must face our ugliness and shake off our biases and fears. We need to truly see that the value of human life does not depend on accomplishments, beauty, race, or wealth. It is the birthright of every single living human.

Black lives matter. This truth is so evident that it shouldn’ t need to be said. We should know to the very marrow of our bones that life is precious. It’s a sad commentary of our country that this truth has to be brought to our awareness one more time.

The past peaceful protests were a start and now Minneapolis' settlement to the Floyd family, but it is only that. A beginning. I must live differently — to break out of my segregated community and church. To advocate for real change, starting with public policy.

I’m deeply troubled that it took the death of one black man for me to realize I’d been living in the shadow of silent ignorance to the plight of so many. For lasting change to occur, we need to do more. I must do more. And it begins with waking up to the realities of others.

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Psychologist, Kerry Kerr McAvoy, Ph.D. writes about dating, healthy relationships, narcissism, and various other mental health-related issues. She is a mom to three grown sons. Loves to swim, snorkel, and read, and enjoys traveling. She lived in the Caribbean for two years. For her monthly letter http://bit.ly/3bCXEnc or to listen to her podcast https://bit.ly/3qiklRC

Austin, TX
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