I’m angry. I’m tired. I’m so very tired… Black people, and other people of color, are hurting. We’re angry. We’re tired. We’re so very tired…
As unrest has unfolded in the country following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, we must not lose sight of the fact that the outrage felt around this horrific incident is connected to the deaths of many, many other black men and women (and other people of color) at the hands of those who have sworn to protect and serve. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, India Kager, Tanisha Anderson…unfortunately, I could go on and on.
Systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial violence have both figuratively and literally had their knees on the necks of Black people and other people of color for centuries…
For our Scholars and alumni, roughly half of whom identify as Black and all as people of color, these events serve as yet another reminder that the communities in which they live and the institutions with which they interact on a daily basis were not built with them in mind. Many look at Palmer Scholars as a scholarship organization; those closest to us know that we are so much more. Our Scholars are our family. As such, we engage them in difficult conversations regarding their racial identity and the fact that their experience has been, and will continue to be, shaped by it.
Recognizing that most of our Scholars will attend a predominately white university, we help prepare them for the challenges they may experience on and off campus and provide resources to help them navigate these often-treacherous waters. By the time our Scholars come to us, they have already spent 16+ years living in a society that has demonstrated it loves their culture without loving them. They’ve spent 16+ years witnessing and experiencing the consequences of centuries of racism and withholding of resources. Many of them have been targeted on one or more occasions because of their race. Many of them have grown to distrust institutions, including (and perhaps especially) the police, based on their individual experiences. These senseless killings are manifestations of systemic racism and injustice that hit particularly hard…who do you call when the police kill?
To our Scholars – Please remember that we are here for you. We love you. Intensely. This is hard. This is exhausting. You shouldn’t have to live in fear. You shouldn’t have to be scared at the thought of leaving your home, or at the thought of a friend or loved one leaving theirs. Any one of you could have been the targets of the racism that has ended the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters. We carry that every day. We see you! We will be holding a virtual event later this week to provide a platform for you to connect with us and with your fellow Scholars, to receive guidance on coping with these challenging times, as well as guidance on how to stay safe should you decide to participate in peaceful protests.
If you are not a Scholar and you are receiving this message it is because you have made a commitment, in one way or another, to supporting our Scholars. You’ve made an investment in their future success. You’ve recognized that educational attainment gaps for people of color are the result of unjust systems, and not tied to the abilities and intellect of those who have been left behind. By supporting Palmer Scholars, you’ve aligned yourself with our mission, vision, and values. You’ve acknowledged that our Scholars’ experiences, perspectives, and abilities are central to the transformation our community so desperately needs. For this, I thank you! However, I must push you to do more.
If you are a person of color, you are likely already engaged in the struggle. You are living the struggle. Keep grinding! Many of you who are white may be actively engaged as well; if not, it is time to get with the program! When it comes to dismantling racism, particular responsibility lies with those who benefit from it. It is not enough to simply be non-racist; you must be actively anti-racist. It is not the responsibility of people of color to do this alone… Together, we must actively challenge systems that perpetuate racism and inequality!
Here are some things that we can all do to fight for racial justice:
Educate yourself! If you don’t know where to begin, here is a helpful guide and list of anti-racism resources to get started. You can also follow and support the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, ACLU, and other anti-racist organizations.
Actively participate in nonviolent civil disobedience.
Sign and share the petition demanding for the arrest of ALL the officers involved in the death of George Floyd. Here is the link: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-jacob-frey-justice-for-george-floyd?use_react=false.
Donate to and share the GoFundMe for George Floyd’s Memorial Fund or raise money independently for the family. Here is the link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/georgefloyd
Call/email District Attorney Mike Freeman to charge and arrest all involved in the death of Floyd.
Email and encourage U.S. Senators of Minnesota Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar to support the calls for justice from many community groups.
Additionally, if you are a mentor to one of Scholars, please check in with them! Recent events are difficult enough to cope with in a time where we can come together as a community. This time of social distancing has meant complete or near-complete isolation for our Scholars and their families.
Our Scholars and alumni deserve more and better than what our world is providing. Please continue to show your love for our Scholars, their families, and our community, by doing your part to stop the senseless killings of unarmed Black people and other people of color.
Jonathan Jackson, MBA