Empathy. Let's grow it.

After six days of nationwide (and now global) protests in the wake of the death of Houstonian George Floyd, who died in police custody after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes—our country is still reeling, with no end in sight to protests and escalating tensions, even as we continue to deal with the continuing challenges of COVID-19.

These are difficult times. While protests have been held in Houston, and some issues have arisen during the marches— a little more than 400 protesters have been arrested in Houston alone since the demonstrations started here on Friday, and businesses and Houston Police Department property have been damaged during some of the more intense moments—so far Houstonians have been handling this. Floyd's body will be returned to Houston for a funeral in the coming days. Yesterday, HPD Chief Art Acevedo tearfully pled for no "anarchists" to hijack the city's ongoing protests with violence and looting. We're all trying to find ways to process what happened to Floyd, and to be constructive about what happens next. It's an uncertain moment, and nothing can be done to change what has happened. We all know that. 

But all of us can step up. Here are four ways Houstonians can help the protesters calling for an end to police brutality right now, or at the least begin to better understand why so many people are fed up and taking these measures to publicly call for justice and equality, even in the midst of a pandemic.

Educate Yourself

If you’re wondering why protests are happening across the country, now is the time to educate yourself on the systemic racism, police brutality, and inequality built into our country’s very fabric. It may sound counterintuitive, but one way to get a better handle on what is driving the demonstrations across the country. Reading creates empathy, understanding, and compassion, things our country could use a lot more of right now. This is a good time to invest in antiracist literature and to amplify the work of our best black writers.

Don’t know where to start? Download Alex S. Vitale’s The End of Policing for free at versobooks.com right now, or try to get your hands on Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want To Talk About Race. Ta-Nehisi Coate’s Between The World and Me and Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped are two of the most important works of American nonfiction published in the last decade—both are must-reads for understanding the racism and injustice that permeates our country's history and the systems being decried right now (these are also available via Houston's brazosbookstore.com.) You can also rethink what you know about American slavery with the New York Times’s 1619 Project online. And if reading isn’t your jam, check out NPR's Code Switch podcast, which tackles themes of race, ethnicity and culture—the latest episode, A Decade of Watching Black People Die (a 22-minute listen), is particularly resonant.

Give

Folks around the country have been donating to protester’s bail bonds, and you can too at Restoring Justice, a Houston-based organization dedicated to ending mass incarceration. The money will also be used to help Houstonians trapped in jail because of poverty.

It’s also a great time to give to the ACLU of Texas, which defends civil rights and liberties of everyone in Texas. 

March

Tomorrow at 3 p.m., George Floyd’s family will march from Discovery Green to City Hall and the entire city is invited to participate. 

In America, protesting is a fundamental right protected by the First Amendment—learn all your basic protest rights here—but since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and there are nearly six million people in our city, here are a few things to keep in mind.  

Put the safety of yourself and your community first—if you are feeling unwell, and especially if you have a fever, don't go to the march. If you are attending, wear a mask, social distance as best as you can, and be patient and peaceful. Driving downtown? You’ll likely want to walk from afar because who knows what the parking situation will be like (or if roads into downtown will even be open), and you’ll definitely want to carpool. 

Vote

Okay, you can’t vote right this very moment, but making sure you’re registered and ready to vote on Tuesday, November 3, and keeping apprised of everything (and everyone) you’ll be voting for is your civic duty. While you’re at it, complete the 2020 Census—you have until August 14.   

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