It was July 2016, I was just back from China, after my first year of teaching. Having traveled to see Tibet and Chengdu after school ended before I came home. I was excited about my travels and I was talking and writing about them. I was also, secretly, glad to be home. I liked living abroad but the US was home. It felt familiar and welcoming. These feelings would start to fade as the summer chugged along.
Videos started showing on the news of black men being shot and killed by police officers. Of them being strangled. Often while they were following the “stay alive” rules. And often while begging the officer for patience, understanding, or the right to breathe.
I remember watching the video of Philando Castile. Shot while he spoke calmly and tried to follow the officer’s directions. They shot him in front of his girlfriend and her daughter. They both watched him die while a hysterical police officer tried to justify what he had done. It was beyond my imagining. He had done nothing wrong.
It was everything that the African-American community have been saying was their reality for years. It seemed to me irrefutable truth and a call for change. A change that was overdue and now undeniable.
That didn’t happen. Instead more and more horrific videos of African-American men being murdered were part of our regular nightly news. Over and over again I thought ‘maybe this time things will change. Maybe this time people won’t argue and will work to make our world better.’ Instead people look for fault in the fallen. They shift the focus away from men being murdered by people we should be able to trust to protect and serve.
The thing is it wasn’t just the police officers using excessive and often deadly force. It was the vigilantes. The self appointed justice warriors. If this isn’t a clear sign that we have a problem I am not sure what is. Nothing is changing and nobody is being held accountable.
The Ahmaud Arbery case. It took national outrage for the two murderers to get arrested. He was shot at the end of February and they were arrested in May. Why did it take so long? How can you kill someone and not be arrested and investigated? I don’t understand this at all. These are not the kind of people I want around. So far all I have heard is that he was suspicious because he went into a house under construction. I have done that more then once in my life time and I have never been pursued, trapped, or murdered. I have heard people say he got shot because he reached for the gun. What would you think if you were being chased and trapped by 2 armed aggressors? Would you think I bet these guys are on the up and up or would you think that they are going to kill you? I am willing to believe that he might have thought he was going to be dead soon anyway….. The fact that the legal system involved is so intermingled with the murderers makes it worse. How many prior rights violations are they covering up?
I hear people claim that Black Lives Matter is “racist” and that “All Lives Matter”. When in reality it is not racist at all. Instead, it is an important message that does not say the word “ONLY” anywhere in it. It does not discount the lives of other people that die. They aren’t saying white lives don’t matter. They aren’t saying Asian lives don’t matter. They aren’t saying Hispanic lives don’t matter. They are simply saying their lives matter as much as everyone else’s does. What is there to argue about in that statement? I’ll answer for you, nothing.
We have heard about the persecutions and unfair treatment by police officers for years. It has been packaged and delivered to us regularly in the form of entertainment. Have you ever heard a comedian talk about ‘driving while black’? What about NWA’s ‘Fuck the Police’? Maybe you dismiss it because one is making you laugh, and has to be hyperbole, but even hyperbole starts with a truth. Maybe you think rappers may be causing their own problems. Maybe they are but why do songs about police continue to tell tales of mistreatment? It has to come from somewhere. If every person, outside of the comedians and rappers that are saying these things, had not experienced situations like this then we would have heard more of the counter-narrative.
I find the response of the families and friends of all the people unfairly murdered by vigilantes and law enforcement to be amazing. They push for the law to do it’s job. They try to get people to change their views and open their eyes. They do not go out and repay the aggressors with similar treatment. They didn’t hunt down George Zimmerman who murdered Trayvon Martin. Gregory and Travis McMichael are in jail, finally, and not dead because the arrests took too long. They are going through the proper channels even though they do not believe justice will be done. Why would they? When has it gone their way before?
I asked you guys to be nice to each other in a blog about the virus. Now I want you to hold people like this accountable for their vicious and inhumane acts. I want them to be called what they are…. murderers, scumbags, and people we need out of society because they hold no place in it.
I want you to look out for people even if you don’t agree with them. I want the world to stop pretending like their isn’t a problem related to skin color. I want people to take a stand to make this place better. It’s up to all of us to push toward a better tomorrow.
BLACK LIVES MATTER
Edited to include the new issues:
I have been working on this for a week and a half now. Writing, deleting, rewriting, and starting over again. I wanted to get it right. The murder of George Floyd almost made me want to rewrite it. Another death of someone pleading for their life. “I can’t breathe!” Except I began to realize I was procrastinating and I might never get this blog post done if I keep reworking it. I am putting this out there with potential flaws and not every bit of information I wanted to include.
I had been trying to figure out how to include the pieces of garbage that use the police as a threat, like Amy Cooper. A person that called the police and lied because she was told to put her dog on a leash. There is no way her apology should be accepted. That was a stupid act and very well could have resulted in another man’s murder. She isn’t the only one either, just the latest.
I wanted to include people who are guilty of crimes themselves and blame African-American men instead. There were news stories about these kind of people recently as well. Putting out a lie that paints a picture that can’t be completely erased even after the lies unravel.
We have to do better. We need to hold careless, malicious, and thoughtless people like Amy Cooper accountable. We need to hold the police officers accountable, whether they think keeping their knee on a person’s neck while they beg for air is okay or think shooting a teen with a toy gun in the park is acceptable. It’s time to hold people, like Zimmerman and the McMichaels, accountable too.
It’s way past time, actually.