"People are hungry for more. I want to learn; why does this happen? I always knew this; they're getting confirmation," said UNC Chapel Hill professor Deborah Stroman, a national instructor for the Greensboro-based Racial Equity Institute. Like an oncologist studies every angle of cancer and its causes, Dr. Stroman instructs everyday people on race and racism and the inequities baked into society. We went to her on the question of what white people can do in this moment after George Floyd.
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We asked about "Andrea", who we met at Saturday's protest and who admitted her white friends and family were not as committed to solving racial injustices.
"They don't feel as strongly as I do," Andrea told us.
And we asked about "Blair", who marched in the middle of the protest that shut down Capital Boulevard. She said in tears, "It's embarrassing" that more of her white peers weren't marching with her.
Dr. Stroman said, "This is no time in particular for white people to feel shame, blame or guilt. Anger is real. But we can't move forward, we can't collaborate if we're stuck in that mindset."
“This is no time for white people to feel shame, blame, or guilt. We can’t collaborate if we’re stuck in that mindset.”— Joel Brown (@JoelBrownABC11) June 4, 2020
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Racial equity expert Deborah Stroman breaks down what white people can do in the wake of #GeorgeFloyd #abc11 TONIGHT AT 11 pic.twitter.com/JnSSNq0Gxc
Stroman teaches the acronym ACT: Acknowledge the injustice; Community organize; and Take heed of the past.
"We can't move forward until we understand what happened in the past. And that's why we are where we are today," Stroman said.
She suggested the books, "White Fragility"; "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and "The Color of Law" as a primer on how inequity in America became systemic.
But, she also warned to be careful with the language we use, like white friends calling their closest black friends to ask if they're okay in this moment.
"Don't ask that question," Stroman said. "Because no, we're not okay. Ask if we're safe. Just do a check-in. But don't ask the question, 'are you ok?' because it gets us right back into that space of trying to explain what's going on and what are feelings are."
And with emotions running high in daily protests in central North Carolina and beyond, ABC11 photojournalist Dearon Smith eased from behind the camera with a question about his own tense confrontation with a black protester this week.
"He basically looked at us and said we don't understand," Smith explained, unsure of what to say back.
"So there's grief right now and a lot of pain and anger," Stroman said. "So as opposed to going toe to toe with this person who is very emotional, you can look at him in the eye and say, you're exactly right. I don't understand. I have not lived in your shoes. I have no idea what you're going through. But I'm here to learn."
Triangle Chapter of SURJ
Showing Up for Racial Justice
Wake, Durham and Orange chapters of OAR
Organizing Against Racism