A couple of weeks ago, I shared an article on my Facebook page titled “The Inevitable Whitelash Against Racial Justice Has Started.” It was about how white allies of Black Lives Matter are softening due to protest fatigue and “evidence” that some of the black people who were shot were, apparently, bad guys. I thought it would be useful if I reframed the topic a bit.
The main point that needs to made is that just because some people have done bad things, let alone MAY have done bad things, it doesn’t mean they deserve to have serious harm brought on them or be, essentially, executed. It’s ridiculous that this even needs to be said, yet, here we are. It seems that a lot of white Americans (and Canadians, judging by recent Facebook activity) need to see a black guy’s boy scout badges and nation’s flag hanging in his bedroom before they deem his shot ass worth fighting for.
Just think about it on a personal level, with something we all have felt about someone, at one time or another:
We all know someone who is an asshole. He’s a big mouth, has terrible manners and says ignorant shit all the time. When he pisses us off, do we punch him in the head? Lay the boots to him? As tempting as those actions sometimes are, the answer for most of us is no. Because it’s illegal and morally wrong. That is the rule, even though we know he’s an asshole.
Now, take that same person and change the situation to you simply heard he was an asshole. Makes beating him up even more wrong, doesn’t it?
Thankfully, it also didn’t take long for real reporters (yes, they still exist) to uncover the truth and that was that Blake is indeed facing a sexual assault charge, but it does not involve a minor. The incident was with his ex-girlfriend – which, of course, is still bad but doesn’t push the same buttons that a child-related crime does. Oh, and there’s the little fact that he hasn’t even been before a judge on the matter yet. But, hey, let’s play psychic racist and pretend that Blake is an awful human being and is guilty of the charge. Let’s even add stuff, like he sells drugs, beats people up, steals bingo money from little old ladies, and rips the tags off of furniture. Guess what? Blake still gets his day in court.
It's called due process. THAT is the law, that he must be proven guilty, that he must be allowed to defend himself in court.
Shooting him in the back seven times because he’s leaning into his car and might be reaching for a knife is not the law. We don’t know for sure if he was reaching for a knife and the cop saw it but, again, shooting him seven times seems unreasonable; just like killing an innocent woman whose apartment you broke into unannounced does, and kneeling on a guy’s neck as he repeatedly says he can’t breathe does.
Oh, I know; new video shows George Floyd was high on drugs and resisted arrest. A lot of people are posting it as some kind of vindication for the policemen involved. But officer Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost 10 minutes even though Floyd was pleading for him to get off, saying that he couldn’t breathe. They held back paramedics who saw he was in distress. He had no weapon. And where the hell was he going to go, with all those cops around him??
Meanwhile, Kyle Rittenhouse, a white guy, walks towards a row of police cars holding a rifle and is politely asked to get off the street, even after he initially didn’t obey. They even tossed him a bottle of water and said they appreciated him and other militia types for being there. He couldn’t even get arrested when he was trying to give himself up after killing two people! If that had been a black guy, he’d not only certainly be dead, he’d be called a dead “thug” and not a “hero” which, incredibly, some people are calling Rittenhouse.
Let’s call this what it really is, this whole thing where killing black people is justified because they either did or are suspected of committing a crime: lynching. It was popular in the old west and in the U.S. south not all that long ago. No trial. Just a “he kind of fits the description, in that his skin is black, which also suggests he is a bad guy. String him up.”
But – seizing upon another opportunity for you to back out of the room – you ask, what about the protests and all of the violence?
The shootings last night that seriously injured two police officers in the protest sparked by the Breonna Taylor announcement is heinous and the suspected perpetrator is being dealt with accordingly – meaning he was arrested and charged and his fate will be decided in a courtroom, not on the street, as it should be.
Yes, it is terrible that people have looted and burned buildings but there will always be opportunists. It’s hard to know what is really happening in those cities because media coverage is so polarized but, for what it’s worth, I have a friend who lives in Portland and says you can walk through most of it and not know there are riots; that there is basically a dedicated block. What is clear is that there are violent indiscretions on both sides. For every window smashed, fire set, and bag of soup thrown, there is a mom tear-gassed, veteran beaten, and person shot in the head with a rubber bullet for holding a sign.
Don’t get confused by the smoke. Wave it away and you will see that behind every bad guy who “had it coming,” there are countless instances of racism and abuse of power which have led to beatings, lynching and framing. Just click on one of those Facebook videos, of police abusing their power, tonight. After it’s done, it will scroll up to another video of the same. And to another. And another. I can watch about 10 minutes before I’m too sickened and also realize I simply don’t have the time to watch them all. I don’t need to. I get it. And so should you.
You may have noticed that I listed “framing” people. For some reason, that issue has been lost, even though it is huge. A recent study by the U.S. National registry of Exonerations showed that over half of the wrongful prosecutions in the U.S. were due to misconduct (such as evidence tampering), either by the police or prosecutor offices. Blacks are decidedly overrepresented in the areas of wrongful murder and drug charges. Meanwhile, less than 20 per cent of the corrupt police and prosecutors are disciplined for it.
I know that what you are being asked to do isn’t easy. You are being asked to pick a side, to support big changes. You might be discovering that some of your friends and family are racists, or you already had an idea they were but thought you might get through life without having to deal with it. It’s going to be messy but it will be worth it.
I’ll close with this excerpt from an Adrienne Rich poem (taken from a friend’s Facebook page):
What would it mean to live in a city
Whose people were changing each other’s despair into hope? –
You yourself must change it. –
What would it feel like to know your country was changing? –
You yourself must change it. –
Though your life felt arduous
New and unmapped and strange
What would it mean to stand on the first page on the edge of despair?