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From Minnesota to Rochester

I’m writing with a heaviness of heart, and at best a trickle of hope.

I have seen the video of the murder of George Floyd far too many times already.  I try closing my eyes when I know it’s coming, even entertaining the ridiculous hope that when I open them again, this would not have happened.  I don’t believe I have ever witnessed anything more cruelly intentional and brutal in my life, made even more horrifying by the three other officers, sworn to protect and defend, who did not step in.

The trickle of hope comes from a couple of sources:

  • Today I attended the rally organized by Black Lives Matter in Rochester. I heard strong, impassioned Black voices, loud and clear, speaking to the pain and the exhaustion of witnessing yet another death, with the searing recognition that they could just as easily have been under that knee.  No one who is not white is safe.  And yet those voices, those survivors, were strong and clear, sure of their own utter worthiness, despite living in a society that has allowed these atrocities to continue for generations.  As one Black leader said in a Facebook post yesterday, “We’re gonna be ok!  We’re gonna be ok!” echoing the kind of mantra that has helped sustain them through centuries of these atrocities. (I drafted this before I learned of the disturbances after the rally ended, fueled apparently by a small contingent of imported semi-pro anarchists, and joined by some local people who could not contain their anger or their impulses.  Do not let that distract from the main narrative of the day:  Black Lives Matter)
  • I also tasted a bit of hope seeing all the white people who were part of this protest. And I did not see any of these white faces cringe when we were challenged to ACT, to spend our privilege in the cause of obliterating racism.  And that white contingent included our Monroe County Executive Adam Bello.  I’m quite sure this was the first time someone in that position has attended a protest in the City!
  • I also had a taste of hope the day before, when I was in a meeting with Rochester Chief of Police LaRon Singletary. I won’t quote him without his ok, but I can say that he was appalled at that video as well, and had no hesitance in condemning that as an utterly indefensible police action.
  • Finally, the press conference held this afternoon by City and County officials produced as unified a message as I’ve ever heard from those often combative parties.

Can the will of Black people survive this round?  I have firm confidence in that.

Will white leaders and white allies and white people like you and I finally act, beyond thoughts and prayers and rallies?  I have less confidence in this.

Will our police department and others across the country finally begin dishing out substantial consequences for excessive use of force, until the message registers in many decibels “You will be prosecuted for criminal behavior”?  To be seen.

Ultimately I have control only over my own engagement.  What am I going to put on the line?  What more will I risk?  What is uniquely mine to do in the midst of this communal health crisis called racism?  Do I even understand the degree of privilege that’s inherent in having a choice about how far to go?

And what will you do, my white friends?

For those who would cry, “What can I possibly do?” start by NOT doing these:

  • In a conversation with a Person of Color, don’t dwell on how terrible all this made you feel. You wind up centering (putting the focus on) yourself when you do this.  And our trauma is miniscule compared to theirs.
  • Don’t ever again ask a Person of Color “What was that like for you?” after yet another murder like George Floyd’s. Witnessing that is traumatizing enough without having to revisit it for the sake of a white person who is attempting to be empathetic.  If they want to talk about it, they will.
  • Don’t ever again ask a Person of Color “What can I do?” I hear from so many Black friends and acquaintances that they’ve had it with lazy white people who want them to teach, to mentor, to lead by the hand!

Instead, consult this list – or a hundred others like it:

“75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice”

Do your own research, go to workshops, observe, begin, somewhere to take action in your own life and spheres of influence.  Identify what it is you most fear will be asked of you – then do that.  Stretch!  Get uncomfortable!  Take risks!  Take public stands – in your neighborhood, at work, at your worshiping community.  Put yourself on the line!

Identify how your knee is pressing on the necks of Black people.

32 thoughts on “From Minnesota to Rochester”

  1. I attended Rally and am going to subscribe to The Minority Report which I’ve been going to do and haven’t; and see about going to United Christian Leadership meetings as you suggested to be more real in this fight vs racism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay, Gloria. And just so you know, UCLMinistries is having a press conference outside Downtown United Pres. Church at 10:30 tomorrow morning. You could come, with face mask.

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  2. Frank, that was inspiring reading. Rochester is my old home and near and dear to my heart. I was sickened at what was happening and in text contact with 5 siblings and some nieces and nephews living there. One nephew has a black wife, a wonderful woman. I feel sorry for her and wonder what she thinks.

    My brother tells me volunteers are cleaning up. I hope rioting will not happen tonight. I recall vividly the riots of the ‘60’s as we lived close to Clarissa Street. Unfortunately the issues some 50 years later.

    I pray for a national recovery. Thanks for listening!

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    1. And thanks for responding, Ned. I also have had flashbacks to 1964. I was in a very different place at the time – living in a white bubble. Couldn’t understand why “those people” were destroying their own neighborhoods. I’m still learning – and unlearning so much! We white folks need to not only wake up, but act!!! And thank you for listening too.

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      1. Frank, you ought to say that again — no let me say it for you — you “white folks need to not only wake up, but act!!!”

        And that necessarily means doing way more that writing and/or commenting on blogs.

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    2. Dear Mr. Sloan,

      What in the heck are you saying? Your “5 siblings and nieces and nephews” all live here. “One nephew has a black wife,” and you “feel sorry for her [because she has the misfortune of being Black, and because she is Black, you] wonder what she thinks,” but you do NOT need to feel sorry for your 5 siblings and nieces and nephews — because they are white, and apparently you don’t need to wonder what they think — because apparently you already know.

      If what I wrote above does NOT accurately reflect your potentially racist thinking — please straighten me out.

      Thanks

      P.S., If you really cared about what your nephew’s wife thinks, what Sir, would be the most logical way to find out? Damn.

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      1. Hmmmm. I don’t get your comments re 5 siblings live in Roch. That is a fact and they are sick re what happened to Mr. Floyd.

        I live in Florida and have only met Dani, my nephew’s wife, one time. I was impressed as she is an accomplished and very nice. I liked her a lot. I was thinking of calling her to get her opinion on things happening in the USA currently. I take your point and will call Dani today. She is in a PhD program at the UR.

        I will advise post discussion.

        Thx

        Ned Sloan

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  3. Thank you, Frank, for your thoughtful leadership in challenging us to not simply consider but act on addressing white privilege by listening and learning how to act for social justice in solidarity with Rochester’s non-white leadership. Particular thanks for posting the range of options for action both local and national. For example, the one on corporate use of prison labor expanded my awareness with actionable detail.

    One small point on your report about the Rochester protest and subsequent property destruction. I recommend avoiding reference to “imported semi-pro agitators.” I immediately stopped reading and thought “Huh? Who? Semi-pro? What does that mean?”
    Such claims of “outside agitators” without credible, fact-based sourcing has long been used by those in power to deflect or minimize local responsibility for what leads to protests. To be clear, I’m not justifying the vandalism. But that’s property. And the elevation of property and individual wealth above the common good is, as you know, a major continuing element in racism and what’s brought us to where we are today as a country.

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    1. Thanks Bob, for both the encouragement and the caution about unproven allegations. In my eagerness to get this out last night, I bypassed my editor, who might very well have called me on the same thing!

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      1. Frank,

        Please — STOP IT — some of your writing is beginning to smack of hypocrisy. YOU KNOW DAMN WELL SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO CAUSED SOME OF THE CHAOS IN ROCHESTER YESTERDAY DO NOT LIVE IN THE CITY — PERIOD!!! EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT — SO JUST STOP WITH THE BS.

        No matter what “Bob” says — It’s appropriate to point out the FACT that “semi-pro [OUTSIDE] agitators” WERE INVOLVED. I don’t know if they were “imported,” or if they came on their own, but we do know (in MANY cases) — ain’t nobody cleaning up glass in their neighborhoods this morning — period!!!

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      2. I have very little doubt about that Howard. Still, I’m trying to be a responsible reporter here. As the facts are proven, I’ll definitely publicize that.

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      3. Frank,

        Again, I must tell you that your hypocrisy is starting to shine thorough, more and more clearly.

        First, after you responded to my comment regarding Bob’s claim that you should NOT have written the truth about “imported semi-pro agitators,” then apparently you adjusted the settings on your Blog in a manner that prevents me from commenting further (directly) to your illogical, and potentially hypocritical response. Don’t you understand that such tactical-manipulation amounts to that which Dr. Robin Di Angelo talks about relative to white folks’ super-minimal capacity regarding race-base discomfort — you know Frank — the sort of FRAGILITY that causes white folks to either strike out, run away, or shut down??? Furthermore, do you NOT understand the hypocrisy of waxing eloquent regarding praise for the Police Chief in one case — when it fits your and Bob’s narrative, e.g., “I also had a taste of hope the day before, when I was in a meeting with Rochester Chief of Police LaRon Singletary. I won’t quote him without his ok, but I can say that he was appalled at that video as well, and had no hesitance in condemning that as an utterly indefensible police action.” Well Sir that same Chief and the Mayor, and Monroe County Executive, and Monroe County Sheriff ALL claim that those who started the violence in Rochester were EXCLUSIVELY “outside agitators,” but in this case (unlike above) — even though you “have very little doubt — still, [you’re] trying to be a responsible reporter here.” WOW!!! By the way, when did you became a “reporter”? All this time, I thought you were just a “blogger white guy in Rochester.” Frank, I am unequivocally convinced that the truth of the matter is you were greatly bothered by Bob’s “recommendation [that you] avoid reference to imported semi-pro agitators [and his half-slick, grand announcement that he] immediately stopped reading…” It’s the last part that concerns you most — isn’t it Frank? Bob knew exactly how to push your button — didn’t he?

        Take aways:

        1) Being an effective white, anti-racist (in particular) — requires extraordinary bravery.

        2) Don’t let dangerous, super-liberal, half-sophisticated, white racists cause you to
        compromise your integrity, and turn you into a typical hypocrite (parading as “anti-
        racist).

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      4. Howard, how many times have you accused me of somehow manipulating the blog so that you can’t comment further? A couple of years ago I cut you off for a while. Since then, you’ve had the same access as every other person. In fact, you’ve had that same access no matter how many people have told me they won’t dare post here because of you – this round, at least a half dozen. Please stop the accusation that I somehow squelch you.
        With all that’s going on right now, I’m choosing to not debate this any further.

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      5. Frank,

        You are correct that I “have accused [you] of somehow manipulating the blog so that [I] can’t comment [DIRECTLY] further.” If that’s NOT the case, please accept my apology, but it certainly seems to be so.

        It’s true that “a couple of years ago [you so-called] cut [me] off for a while” — because I offended the sensibilities of many of your fragile, and frequently RACIST, white posters. If it is true that — “since then, [I’ve] had the same access as every other person … no matter how many people have told [you] they won’t dare post here because of” me – then again, I owe you an apology.

        As it relates to “this round, [since it’s been] at least a half dozen” — I dare ANY ONE OF THEM AND/OR ALL OF THEM to explain why. Unless they are liars, they will have no choice, but to admit — it’s because my calling white folks out on their racism — offends their fragile sensibilities ( https://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/why-all-white-people-are-racist-cant-handle-being-called-racist-theory-white-fragility ).

        OK, we won’t “debate this any further,” but not doing so has little to do with “all that’s going on right now.” There’s absolutely NOTHING going on right now that hasn’t been going on all along, and/or has not happened in this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation- state repeatedly (over-and-over-and over-again), and will likely continue to occur until and unless those who control the thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based power structure decide (once and for all) — to GET SERIOUS ABOUT JUSTICE & EQUALITY (AS OPPOSED TO OLD, WORN-OUT, LIP-SERVICE)— PERIOD!!! — https://www.voanews.com/usa/timeline-us-race-riots-1965 .

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      6. I appreciate the apology, Howard. I want you to be assured I’ve played it straight with you – as I know you do with me. As for those people who send me side notes, I still encourage them to post them on the blog. And if they get a response, to take it in, to listen, to be less fragile!
        Stay safe.

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      7. You’re welcome Frank. I’m glad to know that you’ve “played it straight” with me – as I have ALWAYS done with you.

        “As for those people who send [you] side notes,” in my humble, but staunch and informed view, you’re doing the right thing by “encouraging them to post them on the blog.” The fact that they never do is again a testimonial to their deep-seated, race-based FRAGILITY. Dr. Di Angelo is right ( http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/view/249/116 ).

        They probably know that they definitely would “get a response,” but are not ready or willing “to take it in, to listen, to be less fragile!”

        Thanks again, and you stay safe as well.

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    2. If you REALLY believe that “elevation of property and individual wealth above the common good is, as you [claim Frank] knows, a major continuing element in racism and what’s brought us to where we are today as a country” — then shouldn’t YOU, FRANK, and others be leading people to at least challenge, if not destroy property and individual wealth in places like Pittsford, Penfield, Perinton, East Avenue (Roch.), and other such SUPER-WEALTHY COMMUNITIES, or do you believe that inappropriateness regarding “elevation of property and individual wealth above the common good” — is ONLY applicable to INNER-CITY ROCHESTER??? MY DAMN QUESTION IS NOT RHETORICAL — ANSWER PLEASE!!!

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      1. Sorry, Howard. I don’t respond to rants of righteousness from people I don’t know or think they know me.

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  4. Thank you Frank for speaking out, attending the rally, making your thoughts public and being vulnerable in the process. We only need about 600,000 more white people in our metropolitan area to do likewise. I am pushing for much more than a glimmer of hope because my survival as a compassionate human being depends as much on dismantling the structures of institutional racism as the survival of every one’s does. Keep pressing us further!

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      1. I don’t mean any harm Frank, but I have to tell you straight — if you consider yourselves as representing serious anti-racists — then you BOTH need a mentor(s) — period.

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      2. Steve does inspire and mentor me, Howard. And so do you. And so do others, including other Black leaders. When there’s disagreement among my mentors, I pay careful attention. As I’m doing now.

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    1. Steve,

      1) I know that you are a nice guy and all, but I must remind you, as one of the nation’s most knowledgeable whiteness-experts teaches — “being nice is NOT going to end racism” ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Jin7ISV85s ).

      2) Would you please explain HOW Frank is so-called being “vulnerable in the process???” “Vulnerable” to what — criticism by his RACIST white friends, family, neighbors, and others??? I’m sicker-and-tireder-of-being-sicker-and-tireder than Mother Fannie Lou Hamer was of that old, tired, worn-out, white-centering-rhetoric about being so-called “vulnerable” — STOP IT. DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT THAT’S PART OF THE PERPETUATION, REINFORCING, AND MAINTENANCE OF THE VERY THING THAT YOU CLAIM TO BE FIGHTING AGAINST ( http://minorityreporter.net/the-tripartite-beast-and-illness-of-individual-institutional-and-structural-racism/ )??? Your statement is NOT PROGRESSIVE. If anything it’s REGRESSIVE (because the underlying message, signal, or what y’all sometimes call ‘dog-whistle” is — be careful, or you will “suffer” retribution or Ostracization. If you want to communicate a positive or PROGRESSIVE message (in the same vein) — encourage him to keep speaking out regardless of what his RACIST friends, family, and/or others say or think of him. THAT’S WHAT BRAVERY LOOKS LIKE!!! And let’s be crystal-clear — white folks (like everyone else) can NOT effectively fight or work against racism, e,g., BE ANTI-RACIST — IF THEY ARE NOT BRAVE — PERIOD!!! And according to one of this thoroughly racist, white-supremacist-based nation’s most respected anti-racist scholars — if one is not anti-racist — then he or she is necessarily (finish the sentence — https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/14/ibram-x-kendi-on-why-not-being-racist-is-not-enough ).

      Additionally, for you to assert that: “We only need about 600,000 more white people in our metropolitan area to do likewise” (presumably before we can make any significant progress or change regarding the Tripartite Beast And Illness) — is NOT a PROGRESSIVE statement. On the contrary, it is a statement of doom, gloom, impossibility (at least in our lifetimes). So again, if you want to make a PROGRESSIVE statement (in the same vein) — take the position that ALL WE NEED IS A CRITICAL MASS, which can be as little as a couple hundred WHITE FOLKS (if they are truly committed for the long haul, and MOST IMPORTANTLY — WILLING TO FOLLOW BLACK :LEADERSHIP — PERIOD).

      You can also STOP with the super-hyper-bleeding-heart-rhetoric about your “survival as a compassionate [middle or upper class, white, male] human being depends as much on dismantling the structures of [individual] institutional [and structural] racism as the survival of every one’s does.” THAT’S OBVIOUSLY NOT TRUE, OR ELSE WE WOULDN’T BE WITNESSING (THROUGHOUT THIS THOROUGHLY RACIST, WHITE-SUPREMACIST-BASED NATION-STATE) WHAT WE’RE WITNESSING NOW, AS WELL AS MANY TIMES BEFORE IN THE PAST, AND WILL CONTINUE TO WITNESS IN THE FUTURE (UNLESS AND UNTIL WE BUILD A DEADLY-SERIOUS MOVEMENT — ONE THAT WILL MAKE THE MODERN U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT LOOK LIKE CHILD’S PLAY) — PERIOD!!!

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  5. I would add to the list: stop posting the video of George Floyd’s death. It’s important that it was released. I can see that there might be value in the still photo be circulated for people who are just now paying attention, but the video and audio are traumatizing people, especially people of color, unnecessarily.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Frank…my very small part is to read about some of the lives of black leaders in Rochester…focusing in on their courage and determination

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  7. Bravo, Frank. I don’t know how my name is going to appear here, but this is Ingrid, if you remember me. After a day spent on social media, trying to explain to white people lamenting the violence of the protests what you wrote right here: ‘Do not let that distract from the main narrative of the day: Black Lives Matter’, I was filled with quiet joy to see this post from you. I too am thinking about what I should do next. Thank you for all you do already. I hope to talk to you at some point soon.

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    1. I disagree categorically and vehemently that the so-called “main narrative of the day: Black Lives Matter” is what’s most important, especially since we KNOW — in many, many, cases — “Black lives [obviously do NOT] matter” (NOT NEARLY AS MUCH AS WHITE LIVES), including Mr. Floyd’s. So again, it’s way beyond time to dispense with the super-hyper-bleeding-heart-liberal-feel-good-rhetoric, and get grounded in objective reality. I think Adam Bello got it right: “One message was consistent and clear — we must work together to end racism in communities across the nation, including right here in Monroe County” — period!!!

      Like

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