Miles McPherson on George Floyd’s Death, White Power, and the Third Option

I grew up in a diverse family. One of my grandmothers was White, another was Black and Chinese, and both of my grandfathers were Black. Three of my four grandparents hailed from Jamaica, and eventually immigrated to America.

I was born and raised in Jamaica, Queens, where diversity was the norm in my home, but not in my neighborhood or at my school. My neighborhood was 95% black, and the neighborhood I attended school in was 100% white.  Growing up in both environments forced me to learn how to operate in two racially-distinct worlds.

Daily, I experienced racism. I was regularly called the ‘N’ word and targeted by racial jokes and comments as I made my way to and from school each day. On more than one occasion, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it home alive. And, to make things even worse, I experienced racial rejection in my own neighborhood as well, for not being “black enough.”

I grew up in the culture of the sixties and early seventies, which was a racially volatile time in America.  One of the most poignant lessons I learned early on, was that “white was right,” and that “black and brown” should “stand down.” This lesson embodied the very essence of “White Power,” and disobeying it resulted in incarceration or death for people who looked like me.

In essence, “White Power” meant that at any given time, a White person could tell me what to do, take what I had, and determine the outcome of my life. This is what I felt, no matter how true it really was. And people of color, like me, I knew, were powerless to stop it.

As much as White Power impacted me, it was worse for those who were darker than me and even worse for those who were darker-skinned and poor. Because my grandmother was white, I have light skin, causing white people to see more of themselves in me than in darker-skinned black people. That commonality, I was told, lessened their fear. But it didn’t change the fact that I was still just another ‘N’ word to some, causing me to experience a sense of powerlessness that plagued me into adulthood.

Racism becomes even more dangerous when it is combined with this type of power. Though racism is something that anyone can experience regardless of their skin color, racism from White people is uniquely powerful, because it embodies the ability to express hatred in violent and demeaning ways, and get away with it. People of color are painfully aware of this fact, while most white people have no idea how great an impact their privilege has on the lives of their brothers and sisters of color.

Being called the “N” word is not just a derogatory term. Yes, it says to its target, “you are less than me,” but it also conveys the message, “Don’t forget that you have no power over me or your situation. I control you. I can wrong you, even kill you and get away with it, and you will have no power to change that.” This message is what causes people of color to feel powerless in witnessing the murders of black men and women like Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. And it is exacerbated a thousand-fold by the sense that they have no way of ever changing it.

The cop kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, even after George was dead, was ultimately an expression of power. To make things worse, while the cop was killing George, he had his hand in his pocket. His casual but lethal exercise of power was embodied in his very posture, as a reminder to all of us “N’s” that he was in charge, and that the rest of us could do nothing about it.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Miles McPherson