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Some thoughts on 8 minutes, 46 seconds

By Margo Halsted
Posted: 02/01/2021

I can’t breathe.  Eight minutes, forty-six seconds. I can’t breathe.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery . . .

Videos (thank God for them), TV, newspapers, protesters . . .

I’ve not fully understood how a Black person feels.

I am learning. 

I never capitalized Black before.

I had some Black friends at junior and senior high school.  They had to walk a long way to school, literally “from across the tracks”. 

My mother-in-law many years ago said she understood that I had been friends with Black students in school.  “But you never would dance with one, would you?” she asked.  I responded that I had.  She didn’t believe me or didn’t want to believe me.

My Black hairdresser would tell me how her son was pulled over by a cop almost every day on his way to work. She had other very scary stories about her other son and the police.

I always knew that I was white and also one-quarter brown, but wasn’t able to understand how a Black or Brown person felt. I never really understood what their lives were like.

While teaching at UC, Riverside in the '70s all the faculty were asked to identify if they had any minority background because it would help the school with their records. I listed “Hispanic” because my grandmother was born in Mexico. (My mother was born in Arizona before it became a state and didn’t have a birth certificate for many decades until she applied for one.) My main teaching position was at the University of Michigan from 1987-2003. I learned from papers given to me upon my retirement that my position there had been assisted by that earlier “Hispanic” listing: the Music Department had received initial funding for part of my salary. 

I’ve been wary of police at times but was never afraid for my life. I’m beginning to understand so much more. I attended a Pasadena rally on Juneteenth with a “Black Lives Matter” sign to show my solidarity. 

So far, the only other ways I’ve actually made a difference have been to make a donation to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LFD) and to the Los Angeles Chapter of BLM.  

I am learning.

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