By Sharon Jessar, Director or FBS/ SAP/ Womens Voices
I am writing this as a person who has lived in Philadelphia all my life. I’m older, some would just say old. And I’m white. My job is managing behavioral health services at Carson Valley Children’s Aid for the past 36 years. Since mid-March I have been working remotely from my home in the beautiful Art Museum area.
The last eight days in my neighborhood have been beyond interesting. Having been through social isolation, the job loss of so many, stories of those who have been sick and some who died with the virus, talking with my friend, a nurse, after a 12 hour shift and hearing her battlefield trauma, and finally being witness to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a very sick police officer and three others who did nothing to save this man. And then the violence and absolute destruction of the city I love. The soundtrack here has been constant helicopter noise, sirens, bombs. The visuals are of armed police, strike force bike cops, cops on horses, a veritable sea of police vehicles, blown up ATM’s, stores boarded up, the corner pharmacy destroyed. Rumors that something worse is coming. Curfews. An attack on peaceful protesters so there could be a political photo-op in front of a church. How to make sense of it all. What in the world is going on?
There’s really no sense in it except to learn and make change happen. Change is necessary. People all over the world are mobilized. Finally people are listening.
I’ve learned I’ve taken white privilege for granted. I’m ashamed it took me so long to understand this from the inside out. I’ve never had to worry about my son or daughter being brutalized or worse by police. I’ve never had to worry about harm at the hands of police if I am pulled over.
I’ve learned that people I work with have also been stopped, put on the ground by police in the park, worry about raising a black male child, and have to think about what they are doing in ways I’ve never had to. I’ve learned that in the course of our jobs, we rarely talk about race among ourselves or with our families.
I have a lot more to learn.
My friends have said, “Be careful”, “Stay inside”. Why would I do that? This is my city. I believe in what’s happening here and have been going towards the protesters rather than away. They’ve persisted day after day, marching for justice and an end to racism, wary of police. They feel that marching to end racism is more important than keeping a curfew. I believe I heard a plea to VOTE. And I hope they do. And I hope we do. Black Lives Matter.