Which Side Are You On?

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

The murder of George Floyd has made a difficult time into a terrible time. We were all sickened to witness the self-confident manner with which a police officer executed Mr. Floyd, and by the fact that his three colleagues were more concerned with controlling bystanders than with preventing a homicide. Today I wish to make an appeal to WISDOM members who are, like me, white.

Please, never, ever say “I am not a racist.” Racism has been deeply embedded in our land for 400 years. None of us has lived in a bubble. Racism is not a problem that belongs to people of color: it is OUR problem. We need to be part of the solution. We don’t have to be in charge of the solution (really, the world would be just fine without us being in charge of a lot of things), but we can’t sit it out, either.

Our decision is whether we will be actively involved in anti-racist work, or whether we will be part of the problem. Racism is not one problem among many. It lurks at the heart of every oppression in our state and in our country.


Here are some things to stand up for, even in spaces where it would be more comfortable to be silent:

  • There is no moral equivalence between an angry, frustrated teenager breaking a window and a police officer carrying out an extra-judicial execution. Vandalism and murder do not cancel each other out.

  • What happened to George Floyd is not the result of a few bad actors who made a couple of bad decisions. This is the result of a 400 year long systematic oppression of African-American people. Sadly, the actors are interchangeable; the drama is always the same. The only thing new is that we are actually seeing things on video.

  • The cure for oppression is not greater oppression. To suggest that the response to looting should be summary execution is morally reprehensible.

It cannot be enough for us to claim we are not adding to the problem. The devastation of black and brown bodies will continue until white people who claim to be anti-racist are willing to be courageous. Our brothers and sisters are under attack, in so many ways. We cannot claim to be in solidarity with them while insisting on being safe and untouched ourselves.


We have a Governor who claims to care about racial equity, and who made grand promises in his election campaign about reducing Wisconsin’s prison population. As of May 28, nearly half the men tested for COVID-19 at the Waupun prison have tested positive. Still, Governor Evers has refused to use his constitutional powers to move the elderly, the sick, and those who are low-risk out of prisons. He has refused to address the issue. He would appear to “lack all conviction.”

On June 18, WISDOM members from around the state will form caravans, and we will go to Madison to confront Governor Evers. We can no longer stand back and say, “that’s not my problem.” Our prisons are one of the starkest results of the racist past and present of our state. It is time for every one of us to decide if we want to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Neutrality has never been an option.

Last edited by courtney.   Page last modified on June 06, 2020

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