My Point of View: There is much more to be done to address systemic racism

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

My Point of View by Robin Brown

On the weekend of May 22 of this year, I visited a friend in Minneapolis. She lives close to where George Floyd was killed, where the Police Department’s 3rd Precinct was burned, and where protesters (mostly peaceful) chanted “Say his name!” Her perspective about what happened during the protests and the days, weeks and year that followed is different from mine — she comes from a different place geographically, generationally and politically.

Robin Brown

My friend dropped me off at the George Floyd memorial where I walked among the posters with the quotes, “Good trouble,” “Justice for George,” “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” “Black lives matter,” “Justice for Tamir Rice,” “Marcus-David Peters,” “Daunte Wright,” “Justice for all,” “It is our duty to fight for freedom,” and so many more. I documented what I saw and what I felt at the time.

I took pictures of families who where taking pictures of their children in front of the George Floyd mural at the Cup Foods store — the mural that is so well known around the world. I watched moms and dads encourage their youngsters to hold their fists in the air and hold their heads high as their photographs were taken, documenting this very important time in our history.

I was there as an observer. I was the only white person on the street for the short 30 minutes that I walked the grounds. I felt overwhelmed by emotion.  I became acutely aware of my need to more thoroughly understand — everything. I felt so ill equipped.

Who am I anyway? I am a 60-year-old white chick from Iowa, a state that was about 95% (maybe 99%) white when I was growing up. I never even met a person of color until I was into my 20s. My introduction to the civil rights movement was a short unit in my high school American history class. I remember being moved to tears when I realized that people had been lynched for simply being black — during my lifetime.

My guess is that there is not a single person reading this column who considers themselves a racist — I certainly did not. I have never enslaved another human being or participated in a lynching or used the “N” word. I believe that all citizens deserve equal rights, protections and services under the law. But what I’ve come to understand is that it is not enough to passively hold these beliefs. We must actively address the systemic racism that is holding our black and brown communities’ hostage.

According to Kendra Cherry of Verywell Mind, “The problem with systemic racism is that it is all around us. We are born into it. It is embedded in our culture and our communities including our schools, the justice system, the government and hospitals. It is so pervasive that people don’t even notice…”

And even after racist policies have been abolished, the impact is so deep that the effects linger for generations, keeping whole communities of folks from accumulating generational wealth, receiving appropriate health care, accessing higher education, buying a home and many other privileges so many of us take for granted.

I am just beginning to understand my own white privilege. I am just beginning to come to grips with the web of racism that still exists in America. I am just now learning about a new (at least new to me) movement called anti-racism. Yes, I realize that as a 60-year-old woman, I should be much more evolved than I am. I have lived contentedly in my little white-privileged bubble — comforted in the belief that I cared about all people. But there is so much more to be done.

I believe, in each stage of our lives, we do the best we can with what we know at the time. And after the events and experiences of 2020 and 2021, I more clearly understand what I previously did not. So now that I know better, I plan to do better. Will you?

Robin Brown is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party and is a former House District 27A representative.