White women, we have to look deep into ourselves and acknowledge the evil that lives there

Written May 28, 2020

This morning found me heaving with tears of rage and despair while furiously scrubbing last night’s dinner dishes. America. White women. Amy Cooper calling the police to report “being threatened by an African American man” who had asked her to leash her dog is of a piece with the Minneapolis cop who knelt on a Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes, extinguishing his precious life as he begged and pleaded, as witnesses begged and pleaded.

Is of a piece with Minneapolis police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at mostly Black and brown protesters.

I can’t stop thinking of the white woman who gave George Zimmerman a hug after voting with other jurors to acquit him of murdering Trayvon Martin.

The point is not that Amy Cooper had racist thoughts. All white people do, even when we have worked hard to confront and eradicate them. We’ve been deeply and profoundly indoctrinated in racism our entire lives. White women, in particular, are fed a daily diet of fear of Black men.

The point is that Amy Cooper — and the white women who voted to acquit George Zimmerman and the white women who throughout history have been instigators of racist violence including so many who call police on Black people such as Christian Cooper living their regular lives — the point is that these women act on the racist thoughts that rear up inside them. They don’t check themselves. They don’t recognize that calling the cops on a Black man threatens that man’s very life.

They don’t recognize this fact despite the repeated instances of police killing Black men and getting away with it. Despite the very public displays of these murders on social media. Despite the anguish of those who loved these men. Despite the movements for accountability and change that have needed to state what should be humanly assumed, that Black Lives Matter.

If they do recognize the threat they represent and make the call anyway, then white women are perpetrators, plain and simple, active participants in a system that dehumanizes, degrades, and murders Black people.

White women, we have to look deep into ourselves and acknowledge the evil that lives there. It is not necessarily our fault that we’ve been spoon fed racist fear our entire lives. But it is our grave responsibility to acknowledge it, to recognize when it rears its murderously ugly head, and to tell it to fuck off.

There is much more to say — about entitlement and public space and history and America — but, for now, this: white women, let’s get down to it. We have so much work to do.

Author: Sarah Browning

Sarah Browning is the author of Killing Summer (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017) and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden (The Word Works, 2007). She is co-founder and for 10 years was Executive Director of Split This Rock: Poems of Provocation & Witness. She is an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies and recipient of the Lillian E. Smith Writer-in-Service Award as well as of fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, Mesa Refuge, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and three issues of POETRY magazine. From 2006 to 2019 Browning co-hosted the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC. She has been nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize. In fall 2019, she begins the MFA program at Rutgers Camden in poetry and creative nonfiction.

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