As we hunker down in our Covid-19 mandated shelter in place, we have the false sense that the world has slowed, become safer, more sustainable. While we look for ways to maintain order and keep ourselves occupied, it is easy to forget that, for some, the safety of the world has not changed. As in any other crisis, people who are marginalized are at greater risk and take the brunt of the blow and never stop dealing with the oppression they are born into. The videos of Ahmaud Arbrey’s and George Floyd’s murders are difficult to watch. The video of a New York birder’s harassment is infuriating. The news reports that Black Americans are dying from Covid-19 at higher rates and receive less testing and care for it are equally infuriating. The oppression has not slowed for Black America. There is no opportunity to be gained in this time of Covid-19 for people who are marginalized.

Since the time of Michael Brown’s death, the demand for police accountability, trainings and change in police culture has exploded. In that time, trainings have happened. Conversations about culture change have happened, yet Black Americans are still murdered in broad daylight in front of rolling video cameras.

As always, we are appalled and sick with despair about the injustice. Fingers are ready to point out the deep roots of racism, the flawed police state, the white privilege. Then, it’s too much, too deep, too ugly, too hopeless and we return to the shelter in place we have lived for ages. Black America returns to bear the brunt of the crisis. This is the problem. This is not an epidemic that is won from social distancing. This is not an illness that is fought by masking. This is something we must all risk exposure to. We must sit in the discomfort of the knowing that the darker a person is the more we are threatened and uncomfortable. The knowing that we are willing to dehumanize our neighbors in our need to be comfortable. The knowing that our goodness is complicit in Black America’s death when we volunteer at food kitchens but refuse to live next door to them. The knowing that just saying “we are all in this together” does not make it so.

Yes, policing is difficult. Yes, poverty and trauma produce people that are at odds with society. Yes, it is complicated and no it is not. After these instances there are many articles on what White America can do to be good allies. All good, and the number one thing we can all do to change our culture is to be honest and to teach that honesty to children. At some point children become uncomfortable with those who are different than themselves. How quickly that happens is a little bit of biology and a lot of our projection. Children are watching as we are the ones who call the police and we are the ones who size people up before they have even opened their mouths. The many that are obviously other, darker, who cannot pass, know the feeling of being assessed, labeled and filed away in the instant it takes to extend a hand and say hello. For Black America that instant can end in a knee on a neck.

As the board of the Davis Phoenix Coalition whose mission it is to promote a world where all people are safe, respected and free from violence, we vehemently condemn the deaths of Ahmaud Arbrey and George Floyd and the injustices born out of institutionalized racism against Black America. We are asking for people to chalk the names of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbrey and light a candle, when safe, in front of their houses on June 1st.

Gloria Partida is the Mayor Pro Tem of Davis and the founder of the Davis Phoenix Coalition

Crossposted from the Davis Vanguard (posted May 30, 2020)