Maybe I’m deluded. Amidst the anger, fear and outrage I feel right now, there is hope.
I am white and I support Black Lives Matter. I support speaking out for justice and against the abuses of governmental power. I support not only the righteous anger but the compassion for others expressed by these demonstrations. Rev. Al Sharpton spoke about the collective pain in the African American community. There is too much pain in our nation right now and the only medicine for it is justice.
A man, an African American man named George Floyd, was murdered by police. His video-taped cry “I can’t breathe” eerily echoed the same words spoken by Eric Garner in NYC in 2014 before he, too, was killed by police. And in Tacoma Washington, the Medical Examiner just ruled that Manuel Ellis was killed on March 3 by police. He, too, called out “I can’t breathe” before dying.
George Floyd was murdered last week, just about two months after another African-American, Breonna Taylor, was shot by police in her own home, and three months after Ahmaud Arbery was shot. It took three months before the murderers of Mr. Arbery were arrested.
All across the country protests began against this latest murder, largely peaceful protests, calling for justice. But then reports and videos of violence followed the demonstrations. Curfews were instigated, national guard activated. Chaos seemed to ensue in several cities.
This was frightening. Then photos were taken and shared, and peaceful Black protestors called out white instigators of that violence. It seemed these disrupters were mostly either thieves taking advantage of the protests to rip off businesses or white nationalists trying to discredit the demonstrations or instigate further violence. And one white man, a supporter of DT, drove a tractor-trailer into a huge crowd of protestors, evoking the image of a deadly attack by a terrorist driving a truck into a crowd of people in Nice, France, in 2016.
I feel outrage not only against the murder but that peaceful demonstration could be twisted to serve the purposes of white nationalists and others, who represent the very deep social forces in this nation that have perpetrated violence against African-Americans and others in this country for years, maybe since the beginning of this nation.
And in the background, DT fuels the flames, incites violence by his MAGA supporters, calls the African-American protestors “thugs.” Threatens to send in the military. But the armed white nationalists, who protest against the orders of Democratic Governors to stay home to keep themselves and others safe⎼ they, of course, are “good people.”
He is using the protests to create a new crisis and distract us from the old one, from an ongoing pandemic that is still killing thousands. But I think⎼ or hope⎼ he has made a mistake. In the past, DT has worked to instill, in his supporters, hate of people of color, Muslims, Jews, Democrats, and others, and instill fear in anyone who opposes him. (He even re-tweeted a video of a supporter saying, “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”) What he’s done this time is turn his opponent’s frustration over continuing injustice into a conviction that the only viable choice we have is taking action.
And while the demonstrations are continuing, people are dying due to the coronavirus. Over 106,000 people have died. This virus has been made more lethal by the malignant mismanagement of the crisis by the DT government. The GOP have exploited the pandemic instead of responsibly facing it. Some have profited financially, not just for themselves but their mega-rich donors. According to Common Dreams, 41 million people have lost jobs while American billionaires grew $500 billion richer. They have readily sacrificed people to suit their own purposes, and African-Americans have disproportionately been the victims.
This all must end.
The police officer who killed George Floyd was charged on Wednesday with second-degree murder. The others who stood by and aided and abetted in that crime have also been arrested. These arrests and the prosecutions that will follow, as well as changes in the operation of the police in Minneapolis, will be a tremendous first step. The arrests and charges are largely the result of people speaking up and taking to the streets. It is one step at a time. Changing the nation as a whole ⎼ that will hopefully follow.
In Minneapolis, there is at least a Democratic Mayor who has shown understanding of the history of racism this murder has exposed (although the president of the police union has not). The nation has a very different leader. For any deeper changes, DT must go.
So, why hope? Because we need hope to act. Because more than half of the people of this nation are sick of these injustices and are saying so. People are sick of one murder after another⎼ and sick of coronavirus deaths. Of the stupidity, injustice, and malevolence. Of the racism institutionalized into a political, economic and social system that is at the center of the malignancy that is splitting open this nation. Justice for this murder might lead to justice for other murders and abuses of government power. And then the rule of law and the civil rights protected in the constitution will be protected in the streets, the courts, and the Congress.
And somewhere inside the anger, there are tears. When everyone took a knee at a demonstration yesterday protesting the death of George Floyd, the sadness over his death, over so many lives taken, suddenly hit me, hit everyone maybe. But instead of crying, I write this.
Only voices united in opposition can reveal and expel that malignancy and create the social and legal situation where a guilty verdict against police is possible. In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the Lincoln Memorial about “the real promises of democracy.” He said, “It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.” He spoke of his hope. His dream. It is illustrative of this moment that DT has stationed troops at the Lincoln Memorial to drive away the hope and the dream. He won’t succeed. We must stand up for justice.
So, after the fear, anger, and outrage–and the sadness–the hope shyly follows.