Fellow White People, About Your Inherent Racism

BY SAMANTHA COCCO | May 29, 2020

I know you’re tired of seeing these posts. As white people, we are tired of hearing about it because it doesn’t affect us. Because we know we can commit a petty crime and not wonder if we’ll make it out of our arrests alive. Because we know we can go jogging and come home alive. Because we can lay down for a nap and not worry about never waking up again. Because our kids can play with toy guns. Because we know we don’t pose a threat to authority figures with tasers and nightsticks and guns for the simple fact of our skin color and what it represents. But we are nowhere near as tired as Black people and POC. Black folks are tired because they’re living it, every day. They’re tired of having a good day until they open their phone or computer and see the news that another brother or sister has been unjustly murdered.

George Floyd

George Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, by a Minneapolis police officer.

George Floyd’s final words were “I can’t breathe.” Sound familiar? That’s because they were the final words of Eric Garner. History repeating itself in a most disgusting way. A literal, desperate plea for the basic human right of BREATHING, LIVING. Why were these two men killed? No, not because they are Black. Black people are allowed to be Black. They were killed because of white supremacy, because it was threatened. Call it what it is.

And so we add George Floyd to the stomach-churning, heart-wrenching list of those whose lives were ended by police. Say their names. Sean Reed. Breonna Taylor. Michael Brown. Philando Castile. Botham Jean. Alton Sterling. Sandra Bland. Atatiana Jefferson. Freddie Gray. Tamir Rice. Keith Childress. Stephon Clark. Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Walter Scott. Antwon Rose, Jr. Keith Scott. Jonathan Ferrell. Jordan Edwards. Amadou Diallo. Sean Bell. Terrence Crutcher. John Crawford. Oscar Grant. Corey Jones. Too many to name. 104 unarmed Black people in 2015 alone.

And say the names of those killed by white nationalists emboldened by the knowledge that they wouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. Trayvon Martin. Ahmaud Arbery. The Charleston 9. Renisha McBride. Jordan Davis. Emmett Till. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Hundreds of thousands throughout the history of our country whose names we will never know.

But out of all those names, we’re going to make a national disaster about Colin Kaepernick, huh? Do you comprehend yet why he took a knee? His knee is NOTHING compared to that officer’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, collapsing his windpipe and ending his life. Pick a different knee to get upset about.

I don’t care what George Floyd could or should have done differently—in the first place or in the moment—because I’ve got examples of crazed white people with automatic weapons who had just killed dozens of innocent people who were apprehended and taken into custody alive. I expect better of the people my city employs to protect us and you should, too.

And I don’t really care to hear about how police have a dangerous job—they do and I know that and I respect that. There are police officers I love deeply and, of course, I don’t want them in danger. But what we clearly see in the George Floyd video is NOT immediate danger posed to them. We see no immediate danger in dozens of these videos, and that’s only the situations we have video evidence of. What we see are trained officers who KNOW better, who KNOW when a situation is under control, yet CHOOSE to use unnecessary force to restrain a person who does not pose an immediate threat, aside from threatening their white supremacy. Officers who choose to ignore their pleas and ignore their dignity and basic human rights.

“Recognize your inherent racism. It’s painful. I recognize mine. I’m angry at myself and my race and my society.” [Image: Fibonacci Blue via Flickr]

If you’re having trouble recognizing or feeling angry about white supremacy, take this advice from the movie A Time to Kill—Matthew McConaughey’s in it, you like him. Watch the videos of racial violence, then go back and watch them again. This time, imagine the victims are white. Now, check out the photos of statehouse protesters over the past few weeks armed with weapons demanding the country reopen. Go back and look at them again. This time, imagine the armed protesters are Black. Because UNARMED men and women are protesting in Minnesota right now and getting tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets while white men with confederate flag T-shirts and machine guns are afforded their right to protest. Recognize your inherent racism. It’s painful. I recognize mine. I’m angry at myself and my race and my society and I’m fueling it all into this:

The officers involved in George Floyd’s murder have been fired and an investigation is being conducted but we know how many officers have not been indicted or not been convicted.

The only way to stop this is to show our country that this won’t be tolerated. That there are consequences. To encourage law enforcement training and community policing. To demand justice and change from all sides.

Call. Email. Write. Demand. It’s not the responsibility of Black people, though they’re contacting more than anyone else. It’s on all of us to create the community we want to live in.

Take action today, both on behalf of Minneapolis, and in your own community: 

Step one

Email the Hennepin County Attorney to demand justice for George Floyd at [email protected] using this template: 

Attention: Hennepin County Attorney

I am writing as a person of faith who believes in the inherent dignity of every human life to demand that the office of the Hennepin county attorney use its power to arrest and charge the police officers responsible for the murder of George Floyd.

George Floyd is a victim of unchecked police brutality and violence, and these officers must be held accountable for this murder. 

Step two

Email the police department in your own city [try Googling your city’s name + police department email] to demand training, screening, and policies for officers that builds a culture of racial equity and justice using this template: 

Attention: Chief of Police

I am writing as a person of faith and a citizen of [YOUR CITY] in light of the recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. 

In order to build a culture of safety and justice in our community, I ask that you institute mandatory training and accountability for all officers in our city to prevent similar injustices—policies that uphold the dignity of the life of every person in our community, regardless of their race and background. 

[Editor’s notes: This piece was orginally posted by the author on social media and has been edited for this series. 

On Friday, May 29, 2020, the officer primarily responsible for the murder of George Floyd was arrested in Minneapolis. The other three officers involved have not yet been arrested or charged.]

33 replies
  1. Dr.Cajetan Coelho
    Dr.Cajetan Coelho says:

    Thus wrote Mahatma Gandhi: “Violence is the weapon of the weak, non-violence that of the strong.”

    • Alpho
      Alpho says:

      I love how people all over twitter are quoting MLK on Twitter saying “rioting is the voice of the unheard,” yet no one gives them flack for it.

  2. Joe
    Joe says:

    I agree police brutality is disgusting and should stop. But this is a power struggle. You can say it’s white supremacy and that’s fine but this is about power. This is about the individual and many like him who feel they have power over the people they are supposed to protect. You also left out the part about how these “protesters” are setting fire to buildings and looting and committing other crimes that have in no way any comparison to a bunch of gun toting hillbillies.

    • Why should I say?
      Why should I say? says:

      What that police officer did was wrong. What they all did was wrong. In fact it was much more than wrong, it was pure evil. I will not stand for that happening again. However, do not imply that all white people are racist. Please. That is just simply not true. Racism is not a right given to anyone, as you have said. I won’t stand for the looters, for the thieves, for the murderer. I agree that people need to say something and stand up against the racism and those terrible events that occurred. But an eye for and eye and the world goes blind. We already are. It’s 2020. We, America, need to take action and learn from this, that way it doesn’t happen again. We also need to progress. Because someone shouldn’t go into a store, see a black person and think that they are wrong or see a white person and think that they are racist. We ALL need to take a step back and take a look at the world. White and Black alike.

    • Jim
      Jim says:

      You also left out the part that there are undercover cops, white supremacists, far-left extremists, and other people who are against the cause hidden in the crowd. They are only there to disrupt, antagonize, and instigate the cops and others into violence. Many have been arrested in Minnesota already for starting the looting and creating damage on purpose. I know for a fact, because I saw it first hand and was there. Stop believing the story the media depicts. It’s not true.

  3. Termon
    Termon says:

    Samantha Cocco, What world are you living in? “That we (whites) can ignore” this? Not true!
    “.. because it doesn’t affect us”? Not true! “Because we know we can commit a petty crime and not wonder if we’ll make it out of our arrests alive” Whoa! Wrong. ” Because we know we can go jogging and come home alive.”? Jogging?! A lot of us don’t go jogging, because it’s not safe !!
    “Because we can lay down for a nap and not worry about never waking up again.” ? A number of elderly (white) people come to mind who had their houses shot while napping, and some others had a hard time sleeping for months after the noise of the automatic guns and car bombs from drug gang wars. ” Because our kids can play with toy guns.” Holy smokes, are you WRONG ! NONE of us kids were EVER allowed to play with toy guns, and none of the neighbors kids did either. But I guess you could never imagine being a 54 year old (white) woman with black friends who did nothing but walk down the street by the church and 3 young black males surrounded you and said “Hey white b_____, we are going to jump you, we’re going to beat you white b _____, and we’re going to kill you …..” and they repeat it, and it feels like you’re going to have a heart attack and you can’t breathe, and you look around for a witness, and get a glimmer of hope when someone opens a window and it’s an elderly black lady with some grays in her hair, … but then she smirks and laughs.

  4. Dr. Jones
    Dr. Jones says:

    I am a black woman, in my late 30’s, and am thankful to the Ignatian Solidarity Network for publishing this piece. While I am not Catholic (I am non-denominational), I can proudly say I have made the spiritual exercises & follow the teachings of St. Ignatius. One of the many reasons I do is because of the commitment to justice among the Jesuits. I read the article and the comments. I was inspired by some comments and deeply troubled (and honestly hurt) by others; however, the thing that makes me hopeful is that Samantha has, if nothing else, written a piece that sparked a conversation. This conversation is difficult, yet must happen for change to happen. The elements of Ignatian Conversation are a great way to start. A fantastic Jesuit priest with whom I’m acquainted said we should think about this- Humanize, Accompany, and Complicate- when confronted with situations where people in the margins are suffering. I pray for safety, openness of heart, and peace for all the commenters here (even those with whom I have a difference of opinion).

    • Bay Nathaniel Pepe
      Bay Nathaniel Pepe says:

      I have read the comments and cannot fathom how many racists exist in society. Shame on all of you who try to remove any importance from this matter. If ur not educated, don’t say a word.

  5. JR
    JR says:

    You won’t end racism. It has been with us since the dawn of time and will continue to be there long after we are gone. Like religion (another pointless hangover from the past) it is here to stay.

    EVERYONE is racist, to a greater or lesser degree. It is most definitely within human nature. It used to be a survival mechanism for goodness sakes.

    You can intellectualize non-racism all you like, but the bare bones basic facts of it are there. Everyone is out for themselves, it’s dog-eat-dog, and racism is just a sub-set of that.

    Of course, we all enjoy multiculturalism and all of the benefits it brings, but I can guarantee that every last one of us on the planet will look at another person, be they white, black, chinese, south American, Native American, Sub-saharan African, Bangladeshi, Indonesian, whatever… and then make a judgement about whether we are going to like / get on with / have trouble with that person.

    Usually we are open-minded when it comes to people we meet, or need to work with, but I’m talking about the people you rub up against in your day to day and never see again… judgements all the time….race, age, gender…

    We all do it, and there aint nothing you can do to stop it. THAT kind of racism is inherent in society, and it is different from the “I hate blacks” or whoever type of racism.

    Which do you think is more difficult to deal with? Out and out racists are easy to deal with: They simply don’t matter.

    How do you deal with the inherent biases that we all have though? That’s the question.

    We just get on with it. That’s how things are. All the best!

  6. Momma
    Momma says:

    I SURVIVED POLICE BRUTALITY. It was the most frightening experience. I was beaten by 2 officers who attacked me from behind, I didn’t see or hear them coming. I was beaten with their clubs. They threw me in the police car while everyone stood watching in shock. I asked them what are you doing and why are you taking me?
    Once I got to the station, I was put into a soundproof room with windows. I watched them point at me as to make gesture like I came after them with a knife. I could not believe what I was watching. As they were fingerprinting me, I ask, ” What am I being charged with?” He replied If you don’t know, I’m not telling you. I was then taken to the hospital next LA County Jail. I can remember the humility of orange clothing and white jelly shoes and the fear I had of the unknown. I was black and blue from the stick beating. I still didn’t know yet what I was being charged with. It was crazy, It wasn’t until I reach a huge room with so inmates, which one of them quickly told me, APO meant Assault on a Police Officer. I had never been to jail ever. I had never been in any trouble. Soon many people went to the precinct and complained. I was released 7 days later. It was dismissed. I was then harassed and threatened by the police the next 11 years for APO DISMISSED because it appeared every time my plates were run, even when my car broke down.

  7. Sol
    Sol says:

    To start the police make me sick of what they did and are doing to people it isn’t right if I was at the seen I would of pushed that cop off of Floyd even if it ment losing my own life in the process I hope every officer there goes to jail for the rest of there lives but im sick and tired of everyone making everything about race this isnt about race its about the police thinking they can do whatever they want to who ever they want ive seen police do the same things to white people in fact i had police come to my home and shove my moms head into the side of our house for no reason what so ever they wernt even at the right house!!! But yet we white people dont have to worry about the police right because we’re white that simply is not true and look I don’t have a racist bone in my body I have many black friends I have many white friends I have many Mexican friends I have many Indian friends lets just say i have many friends of every race but I’m so sick of the saying #BLACK LIVES MATTER the saying should be #ALL LIVES MATTER black people are no better than anyone else and everyone sits here and says white America but hmmm 90% of my neighborhood isn’t white I’ll tell you that and there’s nothing wrong with that but I’ve seen many black people who are just as racist as white people if not worse I’ve seen a mob of black people beating the crap of one white guy for basicly no reason at all other than being white it goes hand in hand just like let’s loot businesses and set some buildings on fire throw rocks at people shoot and kill people that have nothing to do with this makes a lot of sense and you want people to not hate you?

    • Shawn
      Shawn says:

      A sheriff named Michael Pigg of Childress Tx was transporting my father from the hospital to another facility, in his police car not ambulance. It was roughly 60 miles. My father Gary Clifton was dead half way thru. I mean no disrespect but sometimes i think maybe if we were black someone would have asked questions. But were not and they didn’t. Pigg is still the sheriff and others have came up dead in the jail.

  8. Joe
    Joe says:

    Your opening statement is as grossly racist as the problem you attempt to address. Thanks for telling me what I don’t have to fear because I’m white. Unfortunately I HAVE had to work through trauma that has caused in me fear of police. And guess what, I am white, and on top of that a male. No my white skin did not protect me from being abused, handcuffs ratcheted until welts were left on my wrists, wrongfully arrested, and left in a jail cell – by police – for 20+ hours at the age of 12.

    Yes this happens to blacks far more often on a per capita basis but your ignorance and blithe remarks about my white skin being a Kevlar vest only add insult to past injury and do little to see beyond the color of skin into the real issues causing the pain, hatred, oppression, and enmity between fellow humans, not to mention the dismissal of the very real and similar pain and anguish others who have suffered but just happen to be “white”. Don’t just stop at the en vogue “skin color” issue of the day, peer into the depths of the human heart in all it’s capacity for evil. You’ll find skin color is but a signifier to deeper and more important issues.

  9. John
    John says:

    I have always considered myself a left leaning liberal. I am for progressive taxes, social-welfare state, drug and abortion legalization, and against gun rights. I also consider myself anti-racist (I am completely against the unfair treatment of Africa-Americans by the police). Recently however I have been told that by being proud of my culture, my country and the West in general, and by being against riots and looting I am a terrible racist. If that is racism I certainly am one, and I am not willing to let the Liberal elite change my mind just because they are privileged and think they can control culture. Many people are going through the same change, and despite being anti-Trump and anti-far-right, are not willing to adopt a terrible winning paternalistic attitude towards society.

  10. Martin
    Martin says:

    “Because we know we can commit a petty crime and not wonder if we’ll make it out of our arrests alive”…SERIOUSLY??!!
    This says it all. -How about you just follow the law, and DON’T COMMIT THE CRIME!

  11. Tony hurdt
    Tony hurdt says:

    Until we realize the Almighty God has made each one of us in His Holy image, mankind will continue downward.

    God doesn’t make junk and all humans are masterpieces.

    I am white and believe all mankind are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Remember, God doesn’t make junk!

  12. Martin
    Martin says:

    Black Police officer kills 20 year old, unarmed white boy, Dillon Delbert Taylor.
    Why wasn’t anything said about this??!!
    I don’t remember anyone Burning & Looting over Dillon’s death?!
    As a matter of fact, almost nothing was said about this incident at all…

  13. Dean Gray IV
    Dean Gray IV says:

    I see nothing but hypocrisy from both sides yes a life of a black man/woman or child should be equal to other races that exist but pushing certain agendas on to other people that have never been racist in there life and forcing your opinions through scare tactics and guilt tripping is morally wrong. There are videos and pictures out there showing violence towards all races/ages from both sides from the hands of the police and protesters,also tell me why I’m hearing “white people at the front” “those/them white people” “antifa are here it’s those white folks” if I replaced that colour with even green I’d be accused of been a racist. Yes I am a white male that grew up in poverty in a rough area and have had dealings with the police throughout my entire life everything from theft,assault ,arson, tresspassing etc also spent a total of 11 days in hospital due to the police. Plus my family heritage has had to deal with been singled out and put in to death camps during the war they didn’t care about skin color then, where was my familys white privilege when they were taking there last walk to never return ?. Wheres the huge march for the ex black police officer that lost his life ? BLM apparently can’t be selecting which one means more now.

  14. Concerned citizen of peace
    Concerned citizen of peace says:

    This is powerful.
    It has fully opened my eyes.
    I cannot wait to #BeWithThem now.
    We are all children of the world, and must secure the existence of justice and a future for our people, as One.

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