Take The Next Step
It's Up To All Of UsRobert | Family Medicine Jul 15, 2020
About the author:
Nikolai Harroun is a medical student at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He intends to earn an MPH before continuing on into his future specialty as a physician. Currently, he is conducting research into psychosocial factors that influence the relationship between depression and pediatric diabetes. His research interests, overall, include psychosocial determinants of health, health disparities, and health policy.
The past few months have been eye-opening in a variety of ways, in particular for much of white America. Once again, we are faced with the murder of a black man, George Floyd. We can watch the video on countless websites, hear the tearful messages of black Americans who are so deeply hurt, and when we just see his photo, it calls to mind the atrocity done to him by a white police officer. We all must reckon with our own roles within the system that committed that crime.There are members of white America who are looking for what they can do. Yet others do not wish to accept the responsibility of changing this system. This is not a message to convince you that white Americans are the ones responsible for fixing this system, because we are. If you have not accepted that fact, I encourage you to really open your eyes, ears, and mind to the stories happening all around you. But if you have accepted that you need to take steps forward and are not sure what those steps are supposed to look like, please read on.
Since George Floyd’s death, there has been a lot of debate about the “right” steps for white people to take. Should we check in on our black friends/peers? Should we join them for protests? Should we read books about white fragility and being an anti-racist? Should we ask the people of color in our lives for their stories about our racist institutions? Should we share this particularly snappy NowThis video about systemic racism? I have seen differing viewpoints on each one of these questions, some people arguing yes and others arguing no. And these differing opinions on what white people should do are from those who all agree that we need to be doing more! But there is disagreement about what that “more” should look like, which is exactly what we want! These are the debates we need to have to find what is going to work. If someone had the answer for the exact right way to push this movement forward, it would likely be complete. If someone had figured out the right buttons to push, the right politicians to vote out of office, and the right arguments to make to their racist family members, then we would have solved racism and reformed our system.
No one has that set of answers. But just because there isn’t a user’s manual on how to dismantle racism in America doesn’t give white people an excuse to not help find that solution. White Americans, including myself, need to see George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Amaud Arbery as the horrific consequences for us not taking steps forward when we could have. We have all seen for the past decades what is happening to Black Americans and other People of Color. But we have not done enough. We have not learned enough, we have not listened enough, and we have not stood up enough to make truly meaningful change in our communities.
So, in this time when there is so much energy and passion, force yourself to take the next step forward in your advocacy. If you have just noticed what is going on, read books, listen to podcasts, and listen to people who have been in this fight for decades. If you have taken the time to do these things, then go to a protest, organize an event, or debate people in your life with the knowledge you have acquired. If you are doing these things, then find the next step for you to move your contributions up to the next level. If you mess up and do not accomplish what you were trying to do, try something else. The fear of alienating someone with your direct action does not outweigh the indirect impacts of your inaction.
The fear of doing something wrong while you are trying to do what is right has stagnated the progress that could have been made these past years. White Americans are late to this movement and are the reason that it is necessary. We have the most powerful voices in this system we have created for ourselves, and we all need to take responsibility for its removal.
Take the next step.