George Floyd mural

I am the problem

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I feel conflicted about my role in the protests raging across the United States in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

Part of me desperately wants to do something meaningful and tangible to combat the centuries of racism, oppression, and gaslighting white folks like me have inflicted on communities of color. I want to make my voice heard. I don’t want there to be any ambiguity about which side I’m on. 

But there’s another part of me that can’t shake the feeling that too often white people like me use these moments to make ourselves feel like we aren’t the problem. We make a quick phone call and go about our day. We write some impassioned message on Instagram and show our friends how woke we are. We let ourselves feel like the good guys. We let ourselves off the hook.

If you are white like me, don’t overcomplicate it. Of course, do whatever you can to support communities of color in these dark, devastating times. 

But we are not the good guys. We are the problem. It’s not just the overt racists. It’s not just the cops. It’s not just the president. Racism lives inside us all. It is the air we breathe and the water we swim in.

If we are to truly dismantle racism, white folks like me must first and foremost acknowledge and combat the racism inside each of us – who we do and don’t make friends with, who we hire at work, the neighborhoods we deem “nice”, what traits we deem most beautiful, what hair we deem professional, what forms of protest we deem helpful and appropriate, what language we think of as sophisticated or informed, and on and on and on.

I am the problem. Without acknowledging that, the rest is just making myself feel better.


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Peter Schulte

Peter Schulte is the founder and editor of Kindling. Peter is also Senior Digital Engagement Associate for the Pacific Institute and the UN Global Compact's CEO Water Mandate, connecting businesses to sustainable water practices. Peter holds a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley, and an M.B.A. in Sustainable Systems from Pinchot University. He lives in Bellingham, WA, USA with his wife, son, and cat.

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