To get a perspective on what is happening with the protests today, we asked the always impressive Tracy Gray — one of the smartest people we know. DARPA, NASA, finance…Tracy is a rock star. She is also a very well spoken and fierce advocate for gender and racial equality. We profiled her here.
What is different about what is happening today vs Watts or the Rodney King protests?
What is happening is that we are seeing a sustained and growing movement around the country and now the world. In the ’60s it grew, but much more slowly. The Rodney King protests were just one part of one city; this is way bigger. That was more of a civil uprising, this is a protest. Now what is happening is multi-generational, and intersectional — there are families, older people, young kids and a lot of white people. With Rodney King there wasn’t a lot of protesting. I didn’t go out then; I helped clean up but I wasn’t protesting. This is also happening with COVID and a recession in the background. People have been caged up for months and now they are out, but they don’t have jobs, and the kids don’t have school, so they have a lot of time available, and they are angry. I also think that protesting is a way of having some control in your life; like with COVID and economy, there is a lack of personal control. There is no leadership from the White House, just craziness and unlawfulness from the White House. It is the coming together of all this creating something completely different.
“What is happening is multi-generational, and intersectional”
Then there is compassion that I don’t recall being around during Rodney King and other protests. People saw it with their own eyes, a man dying. And before that they saw a man get shot, then before that with Christian Cooper they saw a man get called into the police who could have ended up in him being shot or hurt. All these things happened within a short period of time, and people could see that was not just something black people were complaining about, this was a real thing. Seeing it with their own eyes brought this wave of compassion out.
Vote for Change
What is your hope for the protests?
I hope that people are connecting the dots to voting and policy changes. I hope that the people in the streets actually take action to vote people in who can make the policy changes we need to effect structural change. We can’t keep protesting, we need to make sure this doesn’t happen again. There is structural racism in our legal and justice system that needs to be addressed.
I hope that white people can look into themselves and ask where they have failed, where have they been complicit, and where have they been a part of this by not speaking out, by acting like this just didn’t exist. I’m not saying all white people are racists, not at all. But we need you to look at where you have supported racist structures and policies, and sexist too.
I’m seeing this. I am seeing white people take a look and really examine what has been their part.
What are your fears?
I don’t have many, except that we are in the middle of a pandemic and I see a lot of young people not protecting themselves. If we spike again, then we will have to lock down again, and nobody wants that. I also fear these people who are protesting will forget to vote, and then we will have that creature in the White House for another 4 years.
“Stop asking black people what to do”
What is the most useful thing for people like us to do?
The first thing is stop asking black people what to do. There is plenty of information out there. Go do the work, read, learn what this all means and how you can help and not hurt. Look deeply in your self at the things you do on a day-to-day basis that support this. How does your business support this, and how does turning your eyes away support this. Examine your fear of not wanting to say the wrong thing. Be comfortable and be authentic, then go toward the uncomfortable. Don’t play it safe any longer. See what works for you, and maybe go further into the uncomfortable. Ask yourself, why is this magazine all white people? Why is that? Why is there not a broader appeal?