One night in late May, Wendy Bohon and her mom were piecing a puzzle together at the dining room table when they heard from the living room a news anchor’s somber voice, prepping his audience for what they were about to see.
Bohon knew the general details of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, the way his neck was pinned to the concrete by a white police officer for nearly nine minutes. But she hadn’t yet watched the video that would soon ignite a national uprising. And she didn’t know what her mom, a fifth-generation Virginian, might say about it.
The mother and daughter got up from the table, stood behind Bohon’s dad in his rocking chair, and watched.
Her mom’s reaction was immediate and visceral.”They murdered that man,” she said, tears filling her eyes.
That moment led to weeks of conversation between Bohon and her conservative-leaning family members about how racism still plagues innumerable institutions in the United States, 400 years after Africans were first brought to its shores.
As thousands have taken to the streets to demand accountability for police violence and rampant racial injustice, many non-Black Americans such as Bohon are for the first time investigating the ways in which they directly contribute to racism and how they might actively fight against it.
They are realizing that there is complicity in their silence around race issues. So now, they are breaking it. And they’re starting with family.
“Absent these kinds of conversations, the status quo wins,” said Patricia Devine, psychology professor and director of the Prejudice Lab at University of Wisconsin-Madison. “And the status quo is being revealed to us to be unacceptable in terms of costing people their lives only because of the color of their skin. That can’t stand.”
White America, which in many ways benefits from systemic racism, has by-and-large chosen to look away from it. But the series of brutal killings of Black Americans in relatively quick succession — Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — has made it “undeniable that there’s a problem white people have to solve,” said Devine, the University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologist.
A Civiqs survey showed a 15-point gain in support for Black Lives Matter among white people in just the last few weeks, reflecting the first time in the three-year survey that a majority of white respondents supported the movement.
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