Updated: May 4
Thoughts on Uprising 2020
(This is a bit academic, but bear with me)
In a universe of multiplicities, protest has a function, just as stillness and peace do. We live in a world where all things exist and while it may be convenient to dismiss protests (violent or nonviolent) by masses of the populous as simplistic expressions of rage, we cannot mistake their seduction. In a country that has pretty poor emotion management skills, to see such an outpouring of humanity reminds us that the numbers on the side bar of CNN’s reports on rising COVID-19 deaths or the eyes and hands behind the cameras capturing the deaths of other human beings, also have or had beating hearts.
When we deal in racism, White supremacy and capitalism, we can easily find ourselves lulled into a dreamless sleep where people become nameless, faceless numbers, and their value becomes linked to their productivity and how well they can be used to accomplish our goals. For example, how many bosses, managers, supervisors and CEOs have utterly ignored or been unable to adequately address with their staff, how great swaths of disenfranchised humanity is attempting to rise together in one voice to tell anyone who may or may not be listening that they indeed, are here. And in being here, they will not lie down gently, quiet down or settle down to make others comfortable. WE have a very long history of lying down, quieting and settling down, many times, by force.
Additionally, many may find it convenient to defend the police, because there are “good cops out there.” I have no doubt of this, although I am reminded of a quote I recently heard, “every woman knows another woman who has been raped but no man knows a rapist.” Although the good cops may not be committing outright murder, whom do they protect, whom do they defend? To the “good cops,” I say, where is your outrage? Where is your voice? How often have you stood on the sidelines, witnessed or washed blood from your own hands? Several cops were present when George Floyd was being killed, only one has his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Did the others not notice? And for Breonna Taylor? Where are the lamentations and outcries from the police about how some of their own murdered a young woman in her own bed?
One of the ploys of White supremacy is to convince us that it is much like a virus to be rooted out and cured in one special part of the body politic. Turns out however, that in order for White Supremacy to survive and thrive, it absolutely cannot exist in only one part of the country or even one part of societal institutions (i.e. only the police force). It has to be and in fact is, woven into the very fabric of the founding and continued existence of this country. Advances in technology and industrialization have actually just facilitated its launch across borders (just consider the numbers of African women in various countries on that continent who risk their health by bleaching the melanin out of their skin).
When White supremacy perpetuates the propaganda that it only exists in one or two people, a handful of police departments or even that it lives primarily in one region of the country, it remains invisible to the rest of us who have been infected by it and sit back, resting comfortably under the illusion that once those specific entities have been dealt with, the plight will be over and we can “return to normal.” In this country, dear friends, White supremacy is normal and it is everywhere. It is the outrage against it that is abnormal. This allows us to be more uncomfortable with expressions of outrage than White supremacy itself. But what happens when we realize that in fact, the healthy response to injustice, violence and disenfranchisement is agitation, advocacy and a radical re-imagining of the world and the systems therein?
Hopefully, these protests mark a transition moment in the history of this country. A moment where communities of color unite with allies to move from spontaneous action to sustained movement. Where we all refuse to lie down, sit down or kneel to oppressive and exploitative systems. Perhaps then, the righteous anger so many non Black Americans feel at this moment will not be directed at the oppressed, but rather at the chains that still keep us in bondage.