It’s felt pretty silly to write about science this last week amidst everything going on around us. I read descriptions of the officer’s murderous actions against George Floyd but didn’t have it in me to actually watch the video until Sunday night. Immediately after, I received a text to turn on the news. A tanker truck had lurched into a crowd of peaceful protestors, nearly hitting one of my closest friends. I was originally going to join him at the protest before I last-minute changed plans to instead volunteer at a pop-up food pantry in North Minneapolis.
The afternoon spent volunteering was so hopeful. Inundated with donations, the organizers eventually had to start turning deliveries away. It took us an hour and a half just to pack all the leftovers up, which will be set out again the next day for community members. I saw the best of humanity at work in the community organizers who woke up to parts of their neighborhood burned to the ground and immediately started providing for their neighbors. I then went home and watched the very worst of humanity in Derek Chauvin and what I thought at the time was a near-miss attack on peaceful protesters.
The driving incident turned out to not be intentional, but still at that moment, it was a lot to take in.
It’s easy to focus on these extreme examples of humanity instead of taking time to assess my own, less visible actions (and inactions). However, it does feel like white people, at least within my own pandemic-limited bubble, are grappling with race on a deeper level than before. Maybe it’s hitting closer to home because it happened in our own city. Maybe the burning is opening our eyes to the depth of pain Black people feel. Maybe the officer’s actions were so shockingly vile to us that when we hear Black people say they aren’t that surprised, we are forced to reconsider our understanding of racism within the community.
Whatever the reason, I hope we as white people sit with this discomfort longer than the media’s news cycle. I hope we educate ourselves deeper than our high school’s history classes by seeking out work by Black writers & producers, like the ones listed below.
- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Hate U Give by Angie Davis
- How to be an Anti-racist by Ibram X. Kendi
- 13th by Ava Duvernay
- New York Times 1619 Project
I hope we diversify our social media feeds so that our everyday lives can no longer be oblivious to the issues Black people face. Racial injustice shouldn’t just pop up on our Twitter feed when protests are breaking out across the country. Intentionally following Black influencers, especially within my sphere of interest (science communication), keeps racial issues on my radar even when it’s not in the news. A few science communicators I recommend following are Mélise Marie, Clifford Johnson, Corina Newsome, Christopher Emdin, Raychelle Burks, Earyn McGee, Shareef Jackson, Danielle N. Lee, and Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.
As we become more educated and aware, I hope that actions follow. On Sunday I saw hundreds of people out with brooms looking for ways to clean. The pop-up food pantry had to turn away an excess of volunteers. At the grocery store, I saw white people pushing around carts that were filling up with donations. Two young men asked me what type of baby formula they should choose since they had never purchased it before. We have the capacity to offer support, but sustaining this altruistic energy will look different for each person. We just can’t say we don’t have the time, money, or energy anymore.
This isn’t all we have to do, but it’s a start. We may not embody the evil I saw in Derek Chauvin, nor the pure virtue and dedication of the community organizers in North Minneapolis. I feel myself falling more in the middle, but I’m learning how much of a role I still play within that position.