A white guy’s primer for other whites in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder
PUBLISHED ON IN THE MICHIGAN ADVANCE
Listen up, Goldilocks. No one has the time or patience for your moral relativism and false-equivalencies bullshit anymore. Too hard. Too soft. Too damn bad. ‘Just right’ is for children’s stories. This is the real world. Please stop with the “it’s horrible a defenseless black man was murdered by the police, but these disruptive and angry demonstrations aren’t helping and need to stop.” Try instead, “It’s too bad these disruptive and angry demonstrations are necessary, but we need to finally stop the systemic problem of murder and abuse of blacks by the police.”
You don’t get to decide how black and brown people, or white people who support them, protest injustice and combat racism. It’s time you grow up and realize you don’t make those rules. It’s not about your comfort or contentment. Your role now is to listen, learn, try to understand, and perhaps join them — not to set the parameters for people of color to accommodate you as they demand cultural change and legal justice. If you can manage that, things can get better. If you can’t, buckle up sister, because it’s gonna be a rough road ahead.
Why call you Goldilocks? Well, for instance, you got your lily-white panties in a bunch when Colin Kaepernick, players across the NFL, and others decided to passively take a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner. That sent you, and all the Karens and Chads and Donalds and Pences, out there, into a jingoistic frenzy.
Kaepernick and his compatriots aimed to peacefully, but visibly, send a message they would no longer stand for systemic racism and mistreatment of people of color in the United States of America. “No, no, no,” said you. That kneeling dissent was “too disrupting, too unseemly, too uncomfortable, and too unpatriotic.”
You felt the need to stress that you supported those people willing to protest injustice, just not protests that you have to actually see or hear anyone talk about, or God forbid, any demonstration that might finally alter the status quo. Egad. You prefer your protests served with a pinky up.
Kaepernick’s symbolic kneeling gave you, Goldilocks, a bonus opportunity to bastardize the national anthem’s purpose by conflating it with respecting and honoring the service of veterans and active-duty military — instead of the ‘liberty and justice for all’ ideal that America purports to stand for. Voila, Kap and his supporters became un-American pinkos. They wanted our soldiers to die and to allow marauding caravans of jobless foreigners to sneak across our borders and eat our children.
Your message, Goldilocks, was that we should move along and find a method, time, and place for protesting that would be more palatable to you.
Fast forward to 2020 (and past the many police murders of defenseless black and brown people since) and the protests that have erupted in cities across the nation following the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers: You don’t like these protests either, Goldilocks. You stress again how you support protests and protesters, just not this kind and these ones. This kind of civil disobedience is “too passionate.”
You and your cozy suburban neighbors now wax nostalgic with each other and your parents on Facebook and Zoom about Dr. Martin Luther King and the 1960s Civil Rights protests. “By Moses, that’s when people knew how to protest. That’s the way ‘they’ should be griping about things in 2020.” Never mind seven or eight out of 10 white Americans in the 1960s disapproved of MLK, his associates, and their tactics, the way you disagree with protesters today. Also, whistling right on past the fact that King and the Civil Rights and Voting Acts took place more than 50 years ago and we’ve been dealing with cases like that of George Floyd continually since.
In the most Wonder Bread of whiteness way, Goldilocks, you’ve made it perfectly clear that there is no discord or demonstration that you’ll find ‘just right.’
I’ll type this part slowly so that maybe you’ll be able to follow along: It’s. Not. Your. Call.
You don’t get to decide. No one needs to appease you. Disruptive change requires disruption. Disobedience and commotion are hallmarks of fundamental cultural change — and of systemic changes to laws, the judiciary, and even governments — because those who control the levers of power are inherently resistant to said changes. Funny how that works.
You may ask, “Who are you, Jeff Timmer, to lecture me, Goldilocks? Aren’t you a five-decade carrier of your white man card? Haven’t you been part of the ‘establishment,’ even (gasp) a longtime Republican and gerrymanderer?”
Yessiree. Guilty as charged.
I’m also a father of five, including two sons. One of my boys is 19 years old. He resembles me quite a bit. My other son is 17 years old and looks nothing like me, but he does resemble men like George Floyd or Philando Castille.
One of my sons runs an exponentially higher risk than the other of being killed by law enforcement every time he drives his car or goes somewhere with friends.
This scares the shit out of me. It also pisses me off. I’m not willing to accept it or tolerate it. I’m not the least bit concerned that people seeking to change it cause you heartburn and discomfort.
Having a black son doesn’t make me better than other white people. But it sure as hell has graced me with a different perspective and understanding than I had a short six years ago when my son left his home in Addis Ababa to move to Portland, Michigan. For those unfamiliar, Portland is a small town with about 6,000 area residents and about a 30-minute drive to Grand Rapids or Lansing. It’s a diverse town full of Germans and lots of other kinds of white people.
So here’s my advice Goldilocks, Karens, Chads, Trumps, Pences, and the rest of you who think you’re entitled to establish the rules about how this game of social change works: It’s waaaaay past time you open your friggin eyes and minds to the reality that you’re no longer dealing the playing cards to the black and brown people in Michigan, Minnesota, Georgia, Washington D.C., Dallas, Los Angeles or anywhere across our fruited plains. Whites will soon be a demographic minority in the United States. Whites who think like you already are.
So, prepare yourself to sit in chairs or sleep in beds that are either too hard or too soft for the foreseeable future, so long as you cling to your delusional notions of getting to decide how this change will happen. It’ll never so much as approach being ‘just right’ for you until you manage to do that. If you ever manage to do that.
Jeff Timmer is a political consultant and strategist. He was Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party and is now an erstwhile GOPer. He is also the father of multi-racial children. Follow him on Twitter @jefftimmer