I’m not very active on social media. I use it to promote things I’ve written and things that my friends have created. Maybe once a week, I’ll log in and scroll through people’s posts. Since George Floyd was murdered, I’ve been logging in more often. I’m not exactly sure why. I think it has something to do with wanting to follow the story, but being less interested in the traditional facts of the case and more interested in people’s reactions. I know social media isn’t perfect, or even very good, at giving a fair representation of people’s reactions. It’s clouded by the fact that it’s only the people who choose to post that are represented, making the reactions seem more extreme, but it’s the best option I’ve got.
One of the sentiments I’ve been seeing a lot says, “It is not enough to be quietly non-racist. Now is the time to be vocally anti-racist.” I find it to be misleading. It’s true, but it implies that there is something special about now. Every moment of every day is the time to be actively anti-racist (I prefer saying actively rather than vocally. Not everyone is good at being vocal, that shouldn’t stop them from helping in other ways.) I know that George Floyd was recently murdered, but if we only get actively anti-racist following specific atrocities, things won’t change. Now is a special time, but not a special time for anti-racism. It is a time for people to express their rage, fear, hopelessness, and sadness. Those emotions are always present, but they are focused after these types of events. Dealing with these emotions now is healthy, but we can’t let the anti-racism relax once the moment has passed.
Another reaction I keep seeing is a quote that people are attributing to Ben Franklin, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” It’s very unlikely that Ben Franklin actually said this. I’m glad for that because I don’t like the quote. When applied to the current situation, it says that there are people unaffected by police officers committing monstrous acts of violence against people. That’s simply false. We are all negatively affected by racism in any form. That we is all inclusive. Even Klan members are hurt by racism. I’m not saying that everyone is hurt in the same way, or with the same level of severity, but no one is better off after an injustice. Not even the perpetrator. I often say that politics is not a competition. I say that because in politics, there is never one side that wins and another side that loses. Either everyone benefits or everyone is harmed. Everyone is worse off because of the murder of George Floyd. The more people who realize that, the better off we’ll be.
The other reactions I’ve seen run the gamut from defending the police to justifying arson. Some seem honest while others seem to be trying to provoke a reaction. They’re pretty much what you’d expect from social media and I don’t have much to take away from them. I singled out these two because they both came so close, but missed the mark. We need to be anti-racist not just now, but always. And anti-racism will never really work as long as people still think racism is a problem that affects others. Anyway, that’s my reaction to George Floyd’s murder.