LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
So our reporters have met a lot of people at demonstrations around the U.S. Many protesters say George Floyd's death changed their sense of racial justice and police violence and inspired them to take action. NPR's Brian Mann has this profile of Billy Dume, who's been marching on the streets of New York City.
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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Black lives matter. Black lives matter.
BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hundreds of protesters stream between the city's skyscrapers, blocking traffic. There's a helicopter overhead and huge numbers of police in riot gear. When the NYPD tries to detain one protester, it feels like things might spiral out of control.
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MANN: The cops back off, and the crowd moves on. And I find myself walking next to Billy Dume, a black man who lives nearby in the East Village. When I ask why he's here, he tells me he normally doesn't come to this kind of march.
BILLY DUME: As a black person, I've actually been relatively passive because I think I've cultivated a life for myself where I try - where I guess I've been kind of removed from kind of these direct pressures that impact black communities. You know, I kind of live in a bubble where I cut my race out of the conversation.
MANN: Dume describes himself as financially successful. He went to a top university. He has a good corporate job. He says he learned at college to play what he describes as a role.
DUME: When I was graduating, I was told how great I would be as a minority hire because I'm a nonthreatening black person because I don't speak with an "urban accent," quote-unquote.
MANN: Dume tells me he's gay and felt safer focusing his activism on LGBTQ rights rather than race. He says even his social media presence downplayed his blackness. I left that piece of my identity out, he tells me. According to Dume, police violence that shaped the Black Lives Matter movement never touched him directly. Then came George Floyd's death, followed by a jarring incident last weekend in Dume's neighborhood.
DUME: When I came home, there was a blockade of police officers. And I quite honestly was terrified because even though I knew that I wasn't doing anything, I saw them looking at me. And I ran to my apartment, and I was horrified and humiliated because I'm supposed to be - feel safer when police officers are around, not less safe.
MANN: So Dume decided to march and says he also wants to talk more openly, more personally about his experience of race.
DUME: It's not bad for me to be black. It's not bad for me to vocalize the frustrations - you know, microaggressions that I endure every single day. And it's time for me to, you know, put my money where my mouth is and actually put my body where my ideas lie and really get out here and march with the people.
MANN: I ask if he thinks this decision will bring a backlash in his personal life or his career.
DUME: I mean, I hope not. Like, I hope that I'm not naive thinking that this movement is actually opening eyes and not, you know, kind of cordoning off my opportunities.
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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Justice.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: (Chanting) When do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Now.
MANN: Dume says it feels good being here, and he wants to believe most Americans want what he wants - for everyone to feel safe and be treated fairly and equally.
Brian Mann, NPR News, New York.
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