The excruciating death of George Floyd, captured on video and seen around the world has shocked people and institutions across the US. In Rochester and its surrounding suburbs come demands for police reform. We are face to face, however, with the reality that this is not just a police problem. Institutional racism is endemic in all facets of our lives.

As students in Pittsford, Brighton, Penfield, Webster and other communities take to microphones along with students and young adults in Rochester, we see how racism is pervasive in our schools, both personally and systemically. As black and brown leaders step to the podium, we are being reminded  that racism exists in town and county government, in health care delivery, in board rooms, in housing and lending practices and in the workplace.

This is a hard but necessary truth to take in if you are white. Not so if you are on the receiving end of injustice in every all facet of your life. It is as true now as it has been across generations and throughout the history of this ‘great’ country. So what are the symptoms to diagnose whether we are truly awake? Here are a few. 

  • You have no idea why all the media coverage is focused on race.
  • Your hope for a quick return to your idea of normal has simply not happened
  • You see more white bodies joining the sea of black, brown and native bodies on the street
  • Your family members and buddies and girl friends are calling out your claims of reverse racism
  • Your family and friends challenge your simplistic cliches about law and order, race and power
  • Your sports page, once a safe refuge from outside influence, now has a racial lens perspective
  • Your favorite talk show hosts are being reprimanded or fired for racist comments on line
  • You have a sense of guilt about not understanding what this has to do with you
  • You see Black Lives Matter signs replacing all lives matter signs on neighborhood lawns
  • Your “I’m not racist” claim sounds hollow as you take in what it means to be white in America

If any of these symptoms rings true, congratulations. But remember, these are merely symptoms, not the underlying cause. The wake-up alarm has sounded. The challenge is whether you are thoroughly awake or decide to hit the snooze alarm and go back to dream land. And if you are fully awake, your journey has just begun.



Steven Jarose