African Americans are exhausted from talking about racism, George Floyd. It's time to listen | Our view
African Americans are exhausted from telling the rest of America about racism.
It's time we as a nation finally listen.
When FLORIDA TODAY's Editorial Board sat down to discuss what we would say after the death of George Floyd, we were cognizant none of us has walked in the shoes of black America. We also knew many of our readers haven't either.
So we decided it was important to hear from black Brevard County residents on their experiences with racism and their reactions to the deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and others. As exhausted as they are, they accepted our request and we dedicated the front page of Saturday's newspaper and a full opinion page to eight powerful essays. In the coming week, you'll see more columns in FLORIDA TODAY on the topic of race.
But we cannot let our black friends, neighbors, co-workers and loved ones carry the burden of changing systemic racism on their own.
Staying quiet in this historic moment is a statement in itself.
Ending this problem is not only the responsibility of African Americans and others who regularly face discrimination, including Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and more. White Americans also must be outraged by Floyd's death after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
It is our responsibility to call out racist comments and actions when they happen outside the public view, whether it be at home, school or work. We cannot close our eyes and say racism doesn't affect us. We need to understand that it does and we need to take action.
So much energy has been spent in the past week debating whether looting and violence at protests is justified and who's behind that. We must condemn such violence (including violence coming from police) because it does nothing to solve the problem while inciting even more division. We must also remind readers that most protesters have been peaceful.
But if we get caught up in the debate over protests, Floyd's horrible death won't be the catalyst for change it needs to be.
Perhaps no one explained that better than Cocoa Deputy Mayor Alex Goins in a Monday Facebook post:
"Don't act concerned about a protest, if you're not concerned about the reason for the protest."
Regardless of your race, we ask you to reflect on Goins' words.
If you have never walked in the shoes of a person of color, recognize that you'll never know what that's like. Stop telling the people who are the target of discrimination that discrimination doesn't exist — unless you're on the receiving end of it you can't possibly understand.
Recognizing that doesn't mean you're personally to blame for not having had such experiences. We're just asking you to listen, be active — be allies.
"An ally is just somebody who's down for the cause but in a way that they can show up," said David Jones of Palm Bay, one of three guests in a Facebook live forum FLORIDA TODAY organized Wednesday to discuss the aftermath of Floyd's death.
"I don't think that an ally means that you have to be on the front line marching. It can be reaching out to your local politician and asking them... 'We have people in this community who need our help. What's your perspective in holding (people) accountable?'"
"If you're somebody who is interested in helping — especially during this moment — black and brown people because we have been having these injustices happen to us for so long, that's what make you an ally," said Ty Hunt, a Melbourne High graduate now living in Atlanta who was also a guest in the livestream.
"You're actually ready to commit and say there is a problem and I'm willing to do something about it." Hunt and Jones co-created the Facebook page and show "We Are Not O.K."
You can learn more about being an ally by reading USA TODAY Network columnist Greg Moore's column: "Want to be an ally to your black friends? Here's a list of what (and what not) to do." You can read it in FLORIDA TODAY's Tuesday print edition.
Significant change will only happen when most Americans are on the same page. We're so inclined to shout our opinions on social media. This time, try to listen. Try to act.
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