George Floyd Called For his Mama, Amy Cooper Called 911: Resources to Understand Systemic Racism in America and How to Help Change It

Two weeks ago, George Floyd died in police custody. A Minneapolis police officer used a restraining tactic of placing a knee on his neck, applying pressure for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Mr. Floyd was unconscious for nearly three of those minutes and for a full minute after EMTs arrived on the scene to provide medical care. Among his last words, George Floyd called out for his Mama.

Earlier that same day, Monday, May 25, 2020, Amy Cooper called 911 after a man requested she leash her dog while walking through the Ramble, a popular destination in New York’s Central Park. The two were alone in the area, beloved by bird watchers. Instead of complying with the law and leashing her dog, Amy Cooper instead called 911, raising her voice, sounding fearful and hysterial, reporting that an “African American” man was “threatening” her life.

In these instances, white people contributed to the trauma and death of Black Americans. Why? Because of racism, one of America’s original and seemingly intractable sins.

In the two weeks since, America has marched, gathered, protested, rioted, looted, took a knee, took a stand, yelled, denied, assembled, honked, held up a fist, threw bottles, ran away in fear, and been pushed in a thousand different ways — good and bad.

Friday afternoon, the hashtag #IAmASuburbanMom started trending on Twitter. That same day and through yesterday, I noticed pictures popping up in my social media feeds of protests in predominately white suburbs and neighborhoods of Chicago. I also saw photos and reports of anti-racism protests in small “sundown towns” in different states, referring to towns that Black Americans know are unsafe for them to be out in or travel through after the sun sets.

Is the tide turning? Maybe. Maybe not. As always, I choose hope.

Taken at a “Honk-In” protest in my Chicago neighborhood on Friday, June 5, 2020.

In that vein, I realized that a lot of folks, like those suburban moms and folks living in predominantly white locales, were looking to educate themselves and learn more about systemic racism and police brutality in America. I also know that most of my readers are white women and mothers and in a unique position to redefine and shape what their children are learning and exposed to about the truth and extent of racism and police brutality in America.

There is a lot of emotional labor involved in asking your BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) friends and family to educate you about what they experience as a a matter of walking through their lives and days. Instead, white folks must learn to educate themselves and take the proverbial bull by the horns in working to understand racism and police brutality and how these ingrained systems can begin to be dismantled and changed.

Here are some resources that can be used by you and those in your circles. These are not exhaustive in any way, but they are a great place to start and learn. Share the information, start discussions or reading groups, talk with your kids and their teachers. Take a risk and challenge your uncle (cause we all have that uncle, right?) at the next holiday gathering.

Speaking up and showing up is so important. I stopped speaking up and showing up in this space regularly a few years ago after this President was elected. I regret it and am ashamed of it, but guilt is useless. What matters more is what you do today, tomorrow, and moving forward. Use your voice, use your power to change this world we share. Here is a place to start, read, and learn:

158 Resources to Understand Racism in America from the Smithsonian Magazine

Anti-Racism Resources for White People

The Sesame Street/CNN Town Hall for Children on Racism

Selma, Just Mercy and other titles that are free to stream on digital platforms right now

Here are a sampling of posts I have written myself over the years about race, racism, and parenting:

6 Valuable Tips for Talking About Race With Young Children – an interview with Dr. Jeanne Robbins, Head of Early Childhood Division, Catherine Cook School

What To Do When Someone Uses the N Word Around You – advice from a friend after a stranger called her this racial slur while at the 7-11

When Your 7 Year Old Asks If Slavery Is Still a Problem in America – spoiler alert, yes, it is

A Tale of Two Chicagos – a personal reflection on growing up white in Chicago and the racism that goes along with that

Another thing that has helped me tremendously is following along on #BlackTwitter. I guarantee you, it will be a gut punch of awakening, but crucial to grow and learn and evolve in the effort to be anti-racist. #BlackTwitter gives white people the invaluable opportunity to be the fly on the wall. Listen and learn, less speaking and more reading. That pit of defensiveness in your stomach may be very apparent. I encourage you not to act on that. Sit with it. Examine it. Try and understand it.

Also crucial to understand that Black Americans are not a monolith — there are progressive voices and conservative voices and young voices and old voices and male voices and female voices and LGBTQ+ voices represented here, but it barely scratches the surface of what can be learned by listening to and following Black voices on Twitter.

@AdamSerwer – writer and The Atlantic

@AdrianCJax – activist and software creator

@AdrienneWrites – Adrienne Gibbs, editor and writer

@agordonreed – Annette Gordon-Reed, Harvard Law Professor, author

@ava – Ava DuVernay, film director

@blackgirlinmain – Shay Stewart Bouley, writer

@_CharlesPreston – Chicago activist and organizer

@ClintSmithIII – writer, poet, father

@deray – activist, author, podcaster

@dianelyssa – a great Twitter follow for the young crowd

@DrIbram – author and historian

@IjeomaOluo – writer, author of So You Want to Talk About Race

@iSmashFizzle – Ashley C. Ford, writer and podcaster

@JamilahLemieux – writer, cultural critic

@JasonReynolds83 – Author, poet, National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature

@kashanacauley – TV writer

@MatthewACherry – director, writer

@nhannahjones – Nikole Hannah Jones, journalist, just won 2020 Pulitzer for 1619 Project

@thearmchaircom – Ally Henny, writer

@TheRoot – digital magazine that presents the Black perspective

@WendellPierce – actor, jewel of NOLA

Be like this gal. Photo taken at Warren Park “Honk In” on Friday, June 5, 2020.

If there are other resources that should be included, please reach out to me at marytylermom@gmail.com.

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