On Sunday, when Adam and I found out that people were protesting in New Haven for police reform, we didn't really think twice about going, pandemic or no. We joined a crowd at the police station. There were informal speeches for a while, then there was commotion, and someone on the bullhorn asked white people to go to the front. In our current system, which needs to change, White people face less risk of injury, arrest, and death from the police, so a line of them blocking the Black protesters provides some safety.
I found myself linking arms with strangers as we pushed towards a line of police. In a moment I can't forget, the officers before me reached for the heavy weapons on their belts. The metallic taste of fear filled my mouth. I really did not want to get shot or beaten that day, but there was no question in my mind that I was in the right place, doing the right thing. I felt the symbolic weight of what I was doing; physically embodying a commitment to be uncomfortable in order to defend the lives of others.
When the crowd eventually pushed back and the police relaxed, I looked around me. I was definitely on the older side of the protesters, and I wondered if I looked like a frumpy lady from the suburbs in a sunhat. Probably. But that didn't matter. In fact--good. That's who should be at these protests. White people of every demographic must be visible in their demand that police violence must stop. In fact, I will go so far as to recommend that White people actively put themselves in the position to be harmed in defense of Black people. It is hard for White people to comprehend fearing our society; fear is not written on our skin, in our histories. Putting ourselves in positions to feel that fear unlocks an empathy that I think will transform our society. The fear is not written in our skin, but we can write it in our memories, in our feelings. And then take steps to abolish it forever.