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White people, we promised we’d do better.

At the end of May of 2020, George Floyd was murdered. Bystanders watched Floyd slowly murdered because it was illegal for them to stop it; would be punishable to try. Many of us watched the footage, were outraged at the footage, decided that this was the moment after which it would be different.

White people, we promised it was time.

But watch our Whiteness work.

Watch how quickly we go from posting black squares on our profiles to saying “I believe that black lives matter, but not in Black Lives Matter,” how quickly we run away from uprisings when they’ve risen too far up.

Watch our Whiteness work.

A few old brand logos come off. A few statues of slave owners come down. Watch how quickly we start talking about where the line is, what is too far. Watch the nostalgia for racism that feels quaint, fond rememberings of when we didn’t care enough to care.

Watch our Whiteness work to protect itself.

Watch the push to the push-back. Watch the call for an inclusive canon dismissed with well-reasons. Watch our Whiteness organize, watch it tell us stories about strong voices of color in the world and why they aren’t quite right, how maybe if they just did it more, better, different.

Watch our Whiteness tell us all kinds of stories, the audacity of our whiteness to claim an end to racism, or the right path through, or to tell us that seeing it enough, is good work done. Our Whiteness tells us that an American looks like us, that a criminal looks like them. It tells us who to trust and who to fear. Our Whiteness does its work without us even knowing. Our Whiteness kills people every day, but tells us not to notice.

We promised we’d do better, promised it was time. We were furious with a world we were grown to ignore.

We saw a piece of it for a moment, a piece that made us willing to learn, to support, to demand that we be different. That moment is still there waiting for us, for more and from more of us.

It’s not our fight to lead, not our fight to win, but we can stop standing by, stop standing quiet while our Whiteness does its work.

Written by

Author of ‘It Won’t Be Easy.’ 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. @mrtomrad on everything.

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