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Denial is the heartbeat of racism

Demonstrators march during a protest of the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis, in downtown Los Angeles, Wednesday, May 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

A self-described “middle-aged redneck Republican” from Orting, Wash., sent an email to the Gee and Ursula Show. Gee thinks it’s the best email he’s ever received in his radio career.

Say what? Is he joking? No.

But you have to listen back to the Gee and Ursula Show on Wednesday to understand. We had a very raw, emotional discussion about the brutal death of 46-year-old George Floyd, who was killed after a Minneapolis officer kept his knee pressed down on his neck as Floyd was pleading for his life. Floyd is black. The officer is white. Three other officers stood by and never intervened.

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Our discussion got very personal after we listened to Floyd crying for help, telling the officers he couldn’t breathe. We shared some truths about our own struggles as people of color and our desire to use our platform for good, especially when it comes to difficult topics, like race.

After that segment, we got hundreds of texts and emails from our listeners. It’s so clear that many of you are also struggling with what seems to be a pandemic of racism. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, the bird watcher in New York’s Central Park … the headlines have been non-stop. Many of you expressed feeling hopeless. Many of you thanked us for being so open and honest. Many of you wanted to know what we could do, collectively, to end this. We read and appreciated every one of them.

But there was that one email from the man in Orting that stood out to Gee. This man told us he rarely agrees with us, but listens every day because he wants to hear our different perspectives. During our Wednesday conversation, he said he pulled over on the side of the road so he could listen and blocked calls so he wouldn’t be interrupted. He admitted he is guilty of racism and he has judged people based on racial stereotypes. He isn’t proud of it but he knows if he doesn’t admit it, he’ll never change.

I asked Gee why this email was so meaningful to him. He says it’s because it was the first time in his lifetime that someone admitted they are guilty of racism. Denial, he says, is the heartbeat of racism. The first step in growth and change is to recognize and admit you have a problem. If we’re going to ever make tomorrow better than today, a voice like this listener’s could help influence others who share his beliefs.

We will continue to have these tough conversations on our show, with the goal of understanding and learning from each other and doing the work it takes to end the racial divide in our country. The only hope we have is for each and every one of us to be willing to do that hard work.

Thank you for being part of the solution.

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