The last four or five days have been unlike anything I’ve ever lived through. I can’t focus on schoolwork nor can I still really process what’s going through my mind. The waves of emotions, whether it be anger, frustration, or sadness, constantly recycle over and over again as I see what’s going on in Minneapolis, as well as all across the country.
What we are seeing is a reaction to hundreds of years of terror being wreaked in Black communities. What we are seeing is a reaction to the institution of police in America, which as for so long played with our right to live. What we are seeing is a reaction to the disproportionate treatment of Black lives in the age of Coronavirus. I understand all of this. However, many do not.
How are we supposed to tell people who have been under the fist of America for 400 years to “keep waiting” or “this isn’t the right way to go about things?” America was founded quite literally on the rebellion of the Boston Tea Party, destroying property as a form of protest against the tyranny of the British. America’s Civil War, our nation’s most violent conflict, was fought over the institution of slavery and resulted in the restoring of the union. The Civil Rights Movement first sought effectiveness by provoking violence against police and white supremacists across the nation, being calculated in ensuring all news networks would see what was being done to Black people who just wanted equality. Tell me how violence was not effective in these situations.
The murder of George Floyd, for simply being a Black man in America, has now become the catalyst for people today to say that this cannot and will not happen again. We have been told to wait yet again, yet days go by without charges and the horrifying video (which I still refuse to see) is out in public, and no action is taken. At some point, if the families of Sandra, of Eric, of Michael, or countless others could never get justice, you expect people to just stand by, or peacefully march, or share a hashtag and things will change? A Target, which had a significant history of working with a police department funded by a THIRD of Minneapolis’ city budget, is going to be restored and rebuilt. The CNN headquarters in Atlanta will be restored and has already begun repainting of their large logo. Corporations will and have continued to just keep on keeping on, being complicit in racist policing and racist policies. But George Floyd does not get that protection, and his life will never be replaced.
What scares me about the past few days is that the movement is disorganized. Small businesses, even if they support this movement and know they have insurance, do not need to go up in flames. If leaders of this movement want to be effective, go after the places responsible for the racist policies. A franchise of a large fast-food chain or a grocery store or especially a police precinct will always be rebuilt. I’m not saying rebellion with destruction is the right method, but if the movement wants to be effective, there’s got to be a method to the actions.
This transitions to what we are seeing with undercover police and other non-Black actors taking part in active destruction to hurt this movement. Whether it was the clip of the police officer destroying an Auto Zone, or the clips seen of police hiding within marches, these are not people that are with this rebellion. They are here to destroy the credibility of the substantive actions being taken and harm any further uprising. Of course, this is nothing new for America (FBI COINTELPRO…), but it is something that everyone needs to be aware of and be conscious of when criticizing this movement. There are so many actors in this that we don’t even know who on the ground is leading. I fear, like many, that these actors have the power of completely shutting down any sort of progress we could take beyond these next few weeks. So to those on the ground right now, keep your eyes open and on alert for those people. There are far more people than we know right now that are trying to take this movement and eradicate any connection it has to our frustration with police, so please stay safe and watch out.
But I have yet to address the biggest problem in all of this, the reason I have perhaps been more pessimistic than most about what’s going on: the complete lack of regard and care for the agenda and the antiracist policies that come with this movement. To the allies that have reached out to me about being productive and making a substantive impact, I see you and continue what you are doing. As non-Black Americans, you should inform yourselves about the history of policing and the history of racist policies in America.
I’m not sorry in saying this unabashedly, but no #BlackLivesMatter IG story post is how we get the change we want. Our lives are not your hashtags. Our lives are not made better by your hashtag. Our progress is not made better because you need an ego stroke to virtue signal your support when you choose to not even sacrifice a bit of your time to re-educate yourself or use your privilege to make changes.
There are so many ways to utilize your platform and your resources. Put your money where your mouth is. Support the bail initiatives to get protestors out of jail. Educate yourself in retraining your conscious biases against Black people. Four or five Philz Coffees can be sacrificed to help support a Black-led activist group. It is ridiculously easy to contribute and make some difference right now, and your lack of care to even do so makes it that much worse. I’ll leave links below for many places to support, but no IG post about our lives mattering without donating or taking a substantive effort to have conversations about race with your families mean anything to me. It means nothing.
On the flip side, I, like many of my Black friends, see the silence of many who choose to not get involved with politics for whatever reason. Well, if Black lives did matter to you, at the very least check in with your Black peers on how they are doing mentally, how they are coping with what’s going on. But, in a circumstance like this, sharing both publicly and privately with your Black peers that you are actively working on ways to be more involved, whether by donating or having discussions on race by posting antiracism resources is more important than your a-politicalness. We as Black people don’t get to choose to politicize our lives because they already are that because we are in America. It does not take much effort to call out that disparity and take action to rectify that. Being a-political to the oppressor is to be with the oppressor.
What the goal of this movement, this fight against police, is this: police abolition. It is one of my most radical policy position, yet I believe most fundamental parts about why I am so focused on educating myself about this nation. The concept itself sounds crazy, but that is only if you, like many of my peers, grew up with positive law enforcement experiences. If you want to understand what a world with police abolition looks like, look around you, look at your middle/upper-middle class non-Black communities. How often do you see police officers? Do residents call the cops on the white kid using cannabis next door? Are police officers actively watching people’s every moves on street corners? Are you getting pulled over for driving 5 over the speed limit? No. American policing was in large part founded upon the very preservation of slavery and keeping the enslaved under control. An institution where people who are playing with citizen’s lives and deaths at the mercy of their own “fear” is what is wrong. I’ll link Josie Duffy Rice’s Twitter thread about police abolition here, as well as the incredible Mariame Kaba’s case for police abolition here. Both women do a far better job of articulating and explaining why this is the only way to end police violence; we must end police as we know it. Police officers don’t often uphold the law as much as they MAKE the law when interacting with Black Americans. I don’t expect almost anyone to want to come to this realization for the abolition of police overnight, because, for myself, it took me years to even think it was justifiable. I am asking, however, to listen, to read, to educate yourself, and see what it means to be for police abolition before you shut down yourself to the idea. If you live in a system where people can decide in an instant you are not worthy of life, that ANY mistake can end the life of a citizen, we must evaluate whether that system is worthy of existing in the first place.
I am not here for empty “I feel you” or “I understand you” because our elected leaders, including former President Obama, are not willing to engage with substantive police abolition discussions. Our leaders are interested in upholding racist policies and spend no time questioning how they can take steps towards developing antiracist policies and becoming more antiracist. Peace, return to normal, “healing” are phrases that mean nothing if Black lives continue to be toyed with at the mercy of police and America day in and day out.
I am tired. I know many other close Black friends who are also exhausted, and we all are going to need time to still process this all. But I know that I will continue to advocate for the policy changes I want to see in the world. I won’t stop bringing up antiracism and I won’t stop calling out racist bigotry in my community when I see it, including with Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins recently. To all my Black peers, if for whatever reason you want to vent, cry, FaceTime in silence, whatever it is, I am here for you and we can be there together. To all those who are out protesting and fighting the good fight this weekend, please stay safe, cover all parts of your face, wear unidentifiable clothing, and come prepared for whatever may arise. These next few weeks are going to be some of the most meaningful ones in my lifetime, and I’ll continue to write about it here. Till next week…
Resources to donate and educate yourself:
Being Noah Tesfaye #133: America Must Reckon with Police
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