I choose to believe people are good. It is a conscious, difficult decision, but it is a decision I make every day. My ability to make this decision and the ease with which I can make it is a product of my privilege as a white woman, and that should not be downplayed or ignored. But choosing to believe that people are good helps me to navigate the arguments and tensions that have erupted within my family and peers in the wake of nationwide protests calling for the end of police brutality against the black community.
Here are the facts to help you have these tough conversations.
Fact: George Floyd was unjustly murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin while other officers looked on without intervening.
George Floyd is one of many within a far too long list of black people murdered by the police. His death, tragically caught on camera, sparked the current movement to end police brutality. Some have argued that Floyd somehow incited his own death, which is not only super insensitive and reflects the widespread ignorance prevalent in the U.S. but skews the focus from the topic of police brutality and the blatant abuse of lethal force.
Fact: The black community lives with the constant knowledge that they or a loved one could lose their lives in a second when interacting with police.
Fact: Everyone is guilty of racism.
Though an uncomfortable truth, every white person benefits from the racism that exists at a systematic level within the structure of the United States. Acknowledging the privilege that results from the systematic racism that continues to oppress black communities is the first step towards advocating change. Of course, this is a difficult notion to convey to those within your family and friends who staunchly argue against the idea that they could be guilty of racism.
Fact: You can’t change everyone’s mind.
There are many individuals who are not good and who have let their ignorance and privilege blossom, turning them into stubborn racists with no interest in empathy or compassion. Arguing with these kinds of people is simply a waste of time and energy. The best way to argue with hateful, willfully ignorant individuals is to dedicate your time and efforts to advocate for greater change and to donate to organizations that are putting in the work to change the system.