To the Editor:

Words such as “injustice,” “oppression,” police brutality,” and “systemic racism” are not novel terms; however, all they’ve been to me — a white, 24-year-old living in rural South Dakota — were words.

But not after recent events — including the callous murder of George Floyd. Thousands marching and protesting in solidarity, cities across America ablaze, both literally by flame and figuratively by the enshrouded anger and desperate pleading from the oppressed.

The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmed Aubrey, Breonna Taylor and many others have stirred public outcry for change. It stirred things in personally, but perhaps none more than the following — I have been naive.

I’ve been naive to the principle of white privilege. To not fully grasp the societal privilege I have been given from conception, merely because of the color of my skin.

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Naive to think that whites and people of color are indeed running a fair race in our society.

Naive to think that the oppression, inequality and systemic racism that is swarming our nation doesn’t exist in my own backyard.

Naive to disregard and pay no mind to the fact that I’ve never once been seen as a threat from law enforcement because of the color of my skin.

Naive to the hundreds of protests, speeches, marches and petitions for change by people of color, for people of color, to no avail.

Naive to the way I viewed actions from people like Colin Kaepernick, as well as the motives and rationale behind them.

Naive to my own fallacy of composition with respect to the decades of public advocacy, relentless calls to action and cogent movements when broaching conversations about the maltreatment of Africans Americans by lionizing figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks.

It didn’t take the killing of Mr. George Floyd for me to recognize that systemic racism and social injustice are problematic. It did, however, allow me to reflect. The ramification of that self-reflection has led me to come to terms with the fact that I have been blinded and heedless in recognizing my own shortcomings.

Naive; no longer.

Riley Nordquist

Mitchell