What Can We Bear?
Trayvon Martin, 17, shot by a vigilante in Florida; Freddie Gray, killed by a ‘rough ride’ in a police van, in Baltimore; Michael Brown, shot by a cop in Ferguson, MO; Eric Garner, suffocated by the NYC police; Walter Scott, shot in the back 8 times as he trotted away from a traffic stop, and hundreds more black males we can’t name. And now in Minneapolis, George Floyd, unarmed, handcuffed, not resisting, the cop’s knee on his throat for 8-9 minutes, intentionally choking the life out of the man. His three fellow officers stood by, letting the murder proceed.
What can we bear? People in the streets of Minneapolis can’t bear it any more. And still, many white people sneer at the idea that it needs to be said over and over–and absorbed–that Black Lives Matter. All lives matter, yes, including ‘blue lives’ (the police officers’). We all know that, we all believe that, but over and over we see clearly that Black lives do NOT matter to some people. Some of those privileged people are racist police officers, and others are the racist vigilantes who assume police power (most recently the father-son team in GA who ran down and shot the young black jogger Ahmaud Arbery).
The killer of George Floyd, and the do-nothing, by-standing officers, were almost immediately fired, which is the swiftest and strongest response from authorities in this country we have yet seen. But why weren’t all four of those officers jailed immediately?
We are haunted by one of the two ‘original sins’ of this nation: slavery. (The other being the near-genocide of the ‘first peoples’). How can the crimes of slavery continue? Because some white people get angry about facing the guilt about what our ancestors did to black, and Lantinx, and Native American, and Asian people.
Unfortunately, we lack national leadership willing to see this violent racism for what it is, and do something about it. Who will spur the weeding out from the police forces those who evidence racial prejudice? It can be done. Some police departments have done it. But the Minneapolis Police has a long history of discrimination and brutalization, as do many of the big-city P. D.s. What can change it? This is a start:
• We can watch out for our non-white neighbors, who often live in justified fear of the police.
• We can be ready to film violence and racism when we witness it, as did 17-year-old Darnella Frazier, whose phone camera captured the entire, no-doubt-about-it murder.
• We can politely but persistently ask our local Police Dept. about racism on the force.
• We can be vigilant, and brave–willing to save lives, and our own humanity.