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Kayla Alexander of the Minnesota Lynx on racism and George Floyd's death

Minnesota Lynx center Kayla Alexander on how to create change, racism in America, and George Floyd's death
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"This past week has been traumatizing, disturbing, exhausting, and depressing," said Kayla Alexander, the Minnesota Lynx's Canadian center.

Alexander should be preparing for a basketball game right now. If not for COVID-19, she'd be in Minneapolis getting ready to take on Kia Nurse and the New York Liberty on Friday night. This was supposed to be her first year with her new Lynx teammates, but instead, she's at home in Milton, ON, watching as the world reacts to the killing of George Floyd in the city she's supposed to be calling home.

The 6-foot-4, Alexander says she's never really been outspoken when it comes to politics. Normally she focuses on her basketball career and helping children. Last year she wrote a children's book called "The Magic of Basketball" and one day she wants to become a teacher. But the past few weeks have caused Alexander to speak up about the injustice she's seen in the world.

The following is an unedited version of an email from Alexander on George Floyd's death, anti-black racism, and the recent protests.

Although there are people who would like to believe that racism no longer exists, this week has provided irrefutable evidence to the contrary. If the murder of George Floyd hasn’t opened your eyes to the serious race issues in America, you are not only choosing to remain ignorant but are likely contributing to the problem.

When you see the police, you should feel safe and protected not fearful for your life. Police brutality and excessive use of force should not be a common occurrence for any segment of the population. When it does occur, decisive action should be taken to ensure those select officers are punished and/or disciplined to the full extent of the law. One of the most heartbreaking parts about George Floyd’s murder was not just the actions of (Derek) Chauvin but also the inaction of the three other officers with him. Had one of them spoken up at any point, perhaps George would still be alive. Instead, they chose to be complicit in his murder. No decision is, in itself, a decision to do nothing. Those three officers are proof that no action can be just as damaging as doing the harm.

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To those who, unlike those three officers, no longer want to be complicit in the failings of the American police and justice system, I encourage you to do two things: educate yourself and use your voice.

Educate yourself: Learn about the issues that are disproportionately affecting black people. Listen to your black coworkers, friends, and family when they share about their experiences. But don’t expect them to educate you. There are so many resources – from books to movies to podcasts and a plethora of think pieces and articles by black authors. It may be uncomfortable to learn about these issues, but that education leads to knowledge and knowledge gives you power. When you start understanding the systems, how they work, and how they oppress certain groups, then you will be better equipped to combat them.

Use your voice: Stop being silent and complicit, start speaking up and challenging the people in your circles. Educate them on the issues; tell them when they are being racist or offensive or ignorant. As you speak out and educate the people in your circles, they can learn and pass on the knowledge to their own circles, and it becomes a trickle effect. But speaking up doesn’t stop when the media does. It doesn’t stop when it is no longer the “popular” thing to do. These discussions need to continue until the change in people’s perspectives leads to real systemic change.

This past week has been traumatizing, disturbing, exhausting, and depressing. But through all of that, there has also been a glimmer of hope.

It has been encouraging to see so many people of various races and ethnicities peacefully protesting alongside black men and women, not just in America but in Canada and across the globe; united in this ongoing fight for justice. It has been encouraging to see people across the country speaking up on their various platforms about the injustices that black Americans face. It has been encouraging to know that there are people outside of the black community willing to do the work and be allies for this cause.

Let’s keep moving forward.