We Can No Longer Be Complicit
Black Lives Matter
The murder of George Floyd by a policeman, abetted by the deliberate inaction his complicit fellow officers, who together ignored his cries of despair and the vociferous pleas of the gathering bystanders, leaves me, as everyone
else, numb with shock, angry, outraged, and crying out for action and justice. Why not a charge of first degree murder—he had plenty of time to release his choke hold; why did it take so long to charge him; and why, at the time of writing, haven’t the other
three officers been charged?
As a white man, an immigrant of Finnish origin who has lived in the US for 42 years, and a citizen of this country, I feel deeply ashamed by the endemic racism that I witness every day.
Intellectually, I’ve known this for a long time.
One just has to read about the American history that isn’t taught in schools, the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, the brutal and inhumane labor camps known as slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings, and the way that white supremacy is built into the very laws of
the nation and the structures of our institutions (universities not excepted).
Viscerally and emotionally, I awake to racism when some other outrageous racist murder occurs.
There were the white supremacist killings at the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina, the murders of Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery; and then the increasing pace of killings by police—Eric Garner in New York, Michael Brown in Missouri, Walter
Scott in Charleston, Freddy Gray in Baltimore, Sandra Bland in Texas, Philando Castile in St. Paul, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Delrawn Small in New York, Brianna Be’Be Hill in Kansas City, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.
All appalled me but didn’t lead to substantive action on my part.
Black people in America have paid attention every time, and protested, with grandparents, parents, spouses, and children fearing every day—as they have since the day the first enslaved peoples were kidnapped and brought to these shores—that their loved ones
in their lives might not return home. Beyond the fear of death, all Black people are apprehensive they may be harassed, stopped, frisked, for no reason but having Black skin; encounter rudeness, suspicion, and disrespect; and know that the laws and the very
structure of white society work against them. Where have we white people been all this time?
I’ve never had to concern myself with any of this as I step out of my house and go about my business, taking that very sense of racial invulnerability for granted.
The murder of George Floyd and so many others has got to change all that for me, and all white people. We have to make ourselves accountable, and hold others accountable. If we don’t, we are complicit.
Racism and white supremacy reveal themselves in job discrimination, the historic effects of redlining, and the sub-prime scandal, which have prevented the majority of African Americans from building financial security and accumulating assets; in sub-standard
schooling that in turn reduces earning power, denying all of us the benefits of vital human capital; and inferior health provision with all that entails in suffering, most recently with COVID-19; and reduced earnings—not to mention the obscenely disproportionate
rate of incarceration.
It’s now time not for reaction, but action.
In whatever sphere we operate, as employees; employers of service workers; users of gig services; business owners; educators; buyers of food, goods, and services; sports fans; citizens; and voter s, we need to be aware of the conditions under which people are
working and whether they have opportunities for advancement or to earn a living wage, and whether these conditions of work are equitable across race.
If they are not, complain; call them out; write to the CEO; move your support to a different business; get on social media; get out and demonstrate (with social distancing); call your local, state, or federal representative. We can no longer afford, for the
sake of our democracy and society, to be complicit. Bottom line: we white people MUST DO SOMETHING!
While this is a personal statement, it reflects the collective sentiments and views of Stylus’s staff and their commitment to equity and social justice, and who are working on a company-wide response. For my part, I will, beyond the work I do, keep this conversation
to the fore within my family and social circle; work to influence my local community; and push my local, state, and federal representatives to work for equity and dismantle the racist structures that discriminate against Black and Brown people.
John von Knorring
President & Publisher
Here are some resources you might want to consult to learn more about racism and white supremacy, and help you formulate action plans, and how to get engaged (with acknowledgements and thanks to AAC&U, Eddie Moore, Jr., and Lori Patton):
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