“I can’t stand ‘I’m not political; I don’t talk about race and color’ ass people. My children and husband don’t have a day off from the skin they’re in. It’s all I have to think about when he leaves this house. My son three weeks old; I have about seven years before he’s armed and dangerous in the skin I gave birth to him in.” — Brittany Lancto, organizer with Black Lives Matter Syracuse New York, May 27, 2020

On June 1, around 400 people demonstrated in Rockland in memory of George Floyd, against police violence and racism, and for the shockingly radical idea that Black Lives Matter. The largest demonstration we’ve ever seen in Rockland, it was sad, joyful, courageous, fierce, cathartic, vulnerable, kind. We knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time that George Floyd’s murderers pinned his non-resisting body to the street, employing the full force of their power as police officers, continuing the unbroken history of mass torture and dehumanization of Black people that started with slavery. In today’s United States, according to a 2019 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, one out of every 1,000 Black men is killed by police; Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men. We despair. We are thrilled by the vibrant demonstration in Rockland and those happening all over. People of color are literally fighting for their lives. We all need to join in the struggle for full Black liberation and a transformed society in which, yes, Black lives matter.

Nate: On Monday, June 1, the Attorney General of the United States, the leader of the Department of Justice and the country’s chief law enforcement officer, personally ordered that peaceful protesters be forcibly cleared from a Washington, D.C. park with tear gas and flash grenades so that the President of the United States could pose for a photo op outside of a historic church with a bible pulled from his daughter’s $1,540 designer handbag. If that sentence doesn’t boil your blood, try this one: According to a study by the New York Times, in “progressive” Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered by four police officers, police are more than seven times as likely to use force against Black people than against white people.

What is this dystopia into which we have fallen? It is the same dystopia into which we have been falling for years. It is a world whose scaffolding can seem unremarkable, invisible, or even inevitable to those born into a position from which they need not scrutinize it. But an overriding lesson from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Atatiana Jefferson, and countless other people of color is that the structures that shape our experience, sometimes invisible to those who knowingly or unknowingly profit from them, have oppressed, silenced, and killed a vast number of our fellow humans.

“I’m tired of grieving and mourning for these innocent black people and their families. America is bleeding ignorance and we need to wake up and close the wound. I’m scared for myself, my family, and everybody black around me. I got a little brother and I pray every time I see him it’s not gonna be the last time. Seeing all of you here sheds a little light in my life and I find it truly amazing to see all of these new faces standing here today. We need to change, not just for George Floyd or for me, but for each future child. Hate isn’t hereditary; it’s learned and it stops now.” — Lilly Bohner, who traveled from Waterville to be at the Midcoast Maine March for George Floyd, June 1, Rockland

Becca: Black people have been doing the work to end racism and oppression for centuries. But it is white people who have the most responsibility to end the systems of white supremacy and racism — not just in the interpersonal arena, but in the way it permeates every structure upholding society. There are thousands of things that white people can engage with to become anti-racist collaborators. For white people in majority white areas: Protest; write letters to the local papers; read people of color’s writings; talk to your kids about racism, about being an active bystander. Carefully intervene when you hear racist comments (but be conscious of risk, which varies depending on your own societal status, and the context). Accept that, having been born into a deeply racist culture, you are in fact racist — you don’t need to waste time feeling bad about it: the question is how to move forward. Look to people of color for leadership, but don’t demand they spend precious time and emotional labor to teach or reassure you that you are one of the “good ones.” I recently came across a helpful guide for white anti-racists: ”Scaffolded Anti-Racism Resources”. Read it. If you are white and have extra money, give to Black and brown-people-led organizations and people, who today have barely more share of the country’s wealth than they did in 1863, the technical ending of slavery. Listen to the podcast “Seeing White” for more on the origins of “race” as a concept, and the hundreds of years of affirmative action policies benefiting white people.

Create organizing and study groups; discuss white privilege and structural racism and plan effective societal interventions. Right now, many Black activists, including the Black, queer, feminist women who created Black Lives Matter, are urgently calling for the defunding of law enforcement, and investment in social programs. This should be considered in all communities. Put visible “Black Lives Matter” signage on your shirt, your living space, and especially on your car. To join in the struggle for Black liberation, white people, particularly cis, straight, white middle-class and wealthy people, must be willing to risk sacrificing some of our comfort.

“Let me be clear – every single day people are dying, not able to take another breath. We are in a state of emergency. If you do not feel that emergency, then you are not human.” — Patrisse Cullors, co-founder, Black Lives Matter movement