I’m a White Mom. More White People Like Me Need to Make Themselves Uncomfortable

In this May file photo, demonstrators marched in Charlotte after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. (Photo by Grant Baldwin for Cardinal & PIne)

By Kara Hinkley

June 8, 2020

Kara Hinkley was arrested while protesting George Floyd’s death. She talks about why white people need to step up.

White people need to make themselves real uncomfortable right now.

It’s not enough to post, to write, to call lawmakers, to talk to family and friends, to explain to your children why we march to put an end to the institutionalized systems that maim and murder our Black sisters & brothers because of the color of their skin. 

T-shirt activism, donations to Black Lives Matter or the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, are good first steps. But it’s not enough.

Take up space and call for the end to a system that does not serve us all.

My experience of being arrested this week is one I’m still processing. Questioning myself around my own individual impact & utility in a broader movement.

My takeaway thus far: Peaceful protest of police violence Against the Black community is disproportionately met with more police violence, as opposed to other areas of protest. 

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I have marched and protested dozens of times for various causes in my lifetime, yet this is the first time I’ve been arrested for such. I stood alone on a corner holding a sign over my head that my four-year old designed which read: “Black People Matter.” 

I did not speak, I did not resist, I simply stood. And I continued standing after curfew, hence the charge of “failure to disperse.” 

Why did I do that? As I stood there, I made eye contact with the police, with the folks driving by — cars full of Black families, of white folks holding a fist in the air and honking their horns, of white supremacists waving American flags as if that flag belonged to them and them alone. 

I locked eyes with the National Guard soldiers while thinking: “I wonder how many of them, like me, joined the Army to make the world a better place. Who opted to become Military Police, like me, to try and make changes from within?”

The small act of taking up space as a white person to say NO to the continued sanctioned slaughter of Black people meant something.

Maybe my rose colored glasses are too shaded, but I think it does something to police and to onlookers when a line of 15 officers in riot gear march toward a woman alone on a corner, throw her sign to the ground, twist her arms behind her back, zip tie her and stick her in a van. 

I hope in some small way it makes at least one other person ask if what they are doing is enough, or one officer to ask themselves if this is the impact they wish to have in the world. 

Despite that, as a white woman, I was made to feel safe at all times. The officers I interacted with (arresting, driver of the arrestee van, booking, and processing officers), were kind and gentle with my body. 

They made sure I was able to maintain six feet of social distance. They wore gloves and masks. They allowed me to keep my mask on. 

I am curious how long it takes to process and release Black bodies from time of arrest in Asheville City Jail? From time of arrest to when I walked out of jail and back onto an Asheville city street was less than 90 minutes.  My body was treated differently than, say, Sandra Bland’s. 

When placed under arrest and put in the arrestee van, I was allowed to keep my backpack on and my phone in my pocket. 

I had pulled my hand out of the zip-ties so that I could text a friend to ask her to bail me out in a few hours. When one of the officers opened the van door, I let them know that I had taken my hands out and asked what he wanted me to do, to which he nicely asked me to put them back behind my back and slip them back into the zip-tie loops. 

This is a bigger deal when you know that I alerted arresting officers to a camping knife (4-inch blade) in my backpack that I keep for when I take my kids camping. So here I am dismounting from the arrest van with access to a lethal weapon and hands free, being asked kindly by officers to simply slip my hands back in the ties. 

My worth was treated differently than, say, Breonna Taylor’s. 

The Time Is Now

We are all busy. We are all fried from burning the candle at both ends under COVID-19, working, parenting, caretaking, healing, you name it. Remind yourself that to stand in the face of oppression, you must make room for it.

I have a boot on my leg because I broke it in February while hiking with my kids. I am closing on and moving into a new house this week, am working full-time, am a mom to two amazing wild children ages seven and four, and am still dealing with cleaning up my things after a terrifying electrical fire in my apartment last month. 

We all have excuses not to show up. And those excuses don’t matter. White silence is violence and white inaction is complicity. The time is now. 

Show up no matter what. And don’t fall for attacks on those who fall prey to police violence. We are all worthy of life, and distraction campaigns geared to make us question our activism because of the victims’ history of crime or substance misuse don’t matter. We are all worthy, no matter what. 

Our brother and North Carolina native, George Floyd, needed us to show up in a real way a long time ago, and we failed him. You and I failed him because we failed to act, failed to make ourselves wildly uncomfortable sooner. 


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