Wednesday, June 03, 2020

America Can't Breathe

This is America. A nation that has racism built into the very fabric of its foundation. A nation that declared that “all men are created equal” while enslaving an entire race. A nation that has never come to terms with its ugly history. A nation that allows its white citizens to profit from the inherent privilege of their skin color every day. A nation that makes its Black citizens teach their children how to survive cop encounters from early childhood.

We are all witnessing the unraveling of the facade of America. Electing a pathologically narcissistic ex-reality TV show host with a storied history of racism, corruption and sexual harassment as president can do that to a country. Yet for so many, particularly people of color and indigenous people, the shiny veneer of “land of the free, home of the brave” has always been a lie. So, after centuries of inequality and state-sanctioned death, people are angry. People have a right to be angry. Anger is America’s one true language. Anger is the way we’ve always gotten results.

All those angry people protesting last month and taking over state capitols with long guns for the “right” to go to hair salons and shopping malls in the middle of a global pandemic? That sure got results. Today we’re basically open with only the flimsiest of restrictions despite an ongoing health crisis and nonexistent federal testing/tracing program. Oh and The Boston Tea Party? It was in fact not a party, but a protest and ensuing riot that resulted in the willful destruction of about $1 million of private property. Today we honor them as patriots. See. Anger works. But only for some people.

So right now, with images of unrest coming from around the nation, we’re once again given a choice. Where do we put our anger? Are we going to be outraged that a white police officer used his knee to pin an unarmed Black man to the ground by his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds - all the while this man was pleading that he couldn’t breathe and then kept it there another three minutes past any signs of life - while three other officers assisted? Or are we gonna be mad that a Macy’s got looted? Are we going to be mad that this scenario - an unarmed or legally armed black person is killed by police without the benefit of the doubt (not to mention a free Burger King lunch) reserved for white actual killers - keeps happening over and over again? Or are we going to be mad that a Target got spray painted? Are we finally all going to agree that Black Lives Matter, and George Floyd’s life mattered, or do allow the Derek Chauvin’s of this world to continue to kill with impunity? These shouldn’t be hard questions.

Yes, people shouldn’t destroy property. Yes, sometimes righteous anger hurts the very communities most hurt by injustice. Yes, violence begets more violence. But if you’re more upset that a shop had a window smashed than a Black person was killed by a police officer for no reason (last time I checked, allegedly paying for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill does not come with the death sentence), your priorities are, let me be perfectly blunt, wrong.

Sure peaceful protest makes people more comfortable. But too often we prize civility over justice. Cue some meme about Dr. Martin Luther King your racist uncle shared on Facebook. But, uh, they shot MLK dead where he stood on that motel balcony. So I guess that’s not really the right way to protest for Black America either.

More recently Black Americans and their allies tried peacefully protesting police brutality by silently taking a knee at sports games. And that wasn’t good either. In fact our so-called Vice President was so “disgusted” by that peaceful and non-violent display he walked out of one of those sports games in a pre-planned huff (and cost taxpayers $325,000 for good measure).

And, let us not forget, Pride started as a riot. Pride started as a protest against long-standing police brutality. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folks rose up and said they wouldn’t be beaten, arrested, harassed and worse simply for existing anymore. So some queen picked up that brick at Stonewall.

People can only take so much, can only see the same patterns over and over, can only experience the same anguish and inequality for so long before the anger manifests itself. Now the question is will the rest of America listen and learn from that anger, or will smash it into submission? I fear with this morally bankrupt wannabe strongman in the White House, we will only see more pain and more suffering. But, if we let it, we could be better.

The problems with police in America are not new, and we should not be surprised by them. Yes, police work is hard and dangerous and important. Genuinely bad people exist in this world, who only want to cause harm and destruction. And if we’re lucky the police protect us from them.

I do not believe all police officers are bad people or people in law enforcement are all racist. So far from it. But too often the system that trains, supports and protects them is bad, and also racist. Too often the system that shields bad officers and demands silence from good ones is bad, and also racist. No other institution, aside from our military, has by its very nature has been granted the right to take human life whenever it deems necessary. Yet police departments across the country are able to use that awesome power largely unchecked, without significant citizen oversight.

Look, I get it. Not all police. Just like not all men, just like not all white people, etc. etc. blah blah. I know it’s hard to work in a field that is both glorified (please, like every other show in America is a cop show) and vilified. But try not to take it personally when protests come to your town - and I hope they will. Because this anger, if we allow it, will make your profession better and more just as a whole. And isn’t that the whole damn point?

What we need is to reform our police system across this country. We need to screen better for white supremacists and other authoritarian tendencies in recruits. We need to prioritize peaceful resolutions over quick, forceful arrests. We need to provide extensive training on racial bias, both explicit and systematic.

We also need to train police departments in de-escalation instead of militarization. In America we’ve all been left to our own devices to make face masks out of old T-shirts during a global pandemic. But every police department across the country has access to head-to-toe full-body riot gear and armored vehicles? I don’t begrudge these officers their safety. But where was the riot gear when all those white people with big guns were marching about? Oh, right, they never bothered to put it on. So, it seems, they know how to de-escalate for some people. And funny how those some people always end up being the same kind of people.

This is America. We are angry. May we learn from this anger, grow and change. We have never been that more perfect union. But we have to keep trying.


James said...

Well, when you lest a violent bully racist apartheid state, with a long track record of human rights violations, train our nation's police, this is what you get. The knee to neck that killed Floyd is an everyday thing in the Gaza Strip, where Israel brutally occupies palestinians and treats them like animals. Every single day. And we give near 50 Billion, billion people, of our tax dollars to this apartheid state who confress and potus ( especially his son) seem to be in love with. I personally do all i can to make this known as our govt fully supports this racist nation.

Why does the United States even consider sending cops to a racist occupying nation to train its police. Makes absolutely no sense. And this is extremely important to raise awareness of at this moment, enough bullying, enough murder, enough oppression. Enouh of playing the victim too.

Anonymous said...

You're a little late to the game aren't you?

Yeller Belly said...

Thanks for this, Snarker.

Anonymous said...

It's about class not race which is why the media is race baiting, shamelessly. Does racism exist here? Yes. But those in power are extremely fearful of a united nation, so they peddle the white supremacy and racist bs. It's classism not racism that is destroying this country. Don't fall for it. Or promote it. And yes James is correct, Israeli bullies and cowards train our cops. Makes perfect sense. I hope you are raising awareness of the racism and genocide we support over there. It all comes full circle.

Osiris said...

Im all for peaceful protests but there is no need to break storefront windows and loot from stores. Too many businesses and workers are already suffering and this will set back the re-opening even further. There can be marches and sit-ins done without the violent behavior. I think a line was crossed.

Panty Buns said...

It is horrible that the response by police to protests against police violence is more police violence, and that there is an unapologetic racist in the White House making everything worse. Every time I think Trump he could not possibly be any more overtly racist+genocidal than he already is without actually donning fitted KKK hood+sheets he does something even worse.
As for the alleged violence by protestors, it is well documented that many police forces around the country have units of undercover officers who pose as demonstrators and commit senseless acts in order to try to justify violent actions against peaceful protestors in "response". It is also a fact that the FBI's Covert Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) never stopped, and neither did the CIA's Operation CHAOS. These police, FBI and CIA provocateurs have been caught on video numerous times trying to tarnish the image of peaceful protesters. ,
Meanwhile a bigger problem is being overlooked. Trump is following the playbook of Adolf Hitler, who used radio to propagandise the German people and sway them into accepting a tyrannical dictatorship. That is exactly what Trump is doing. While individuals can prove what he say is a bunch of lies, the masses generally don't fact checked, and are exposed to Trump's propaganda speeches on Social media like facebook and Twitter and on all the television "news" shows and all over the radio.
These media outlets need to be made aware that they are facilitating the rise of the Fourth Reich by broadcasting Trumps propaganda before it's too late.
The Supreme Court, Senate, FCC, inspectors general, Attorney General and heads of numerous agencies have already been captured, closing off access to redress.
Trump is alreasdy trying to use the military against the American people. The threat could not be much clearer.
Trump et al need to be removed RIGHT NOW.

Asil said...

What you have written here, Dorothy, encapsulates the myriad thoughts and feelings I have, succinctly and thoroughly. Thank you for your years of insightful writing on the issues pulsing through our communities.