Black, Unarmed and Dangerous
Right now, charges have been brought against a law enforcement officer videotaped kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, a black man aggressively apprehended and ultimately killed by the police while going about his day.
Right now, cries for justice have been met with the reminder that, historically, the police force in the USA has existed to protect a certain group of people from another group of people, rather than protect every person under their watch. Till date, this idea continues to underline the law enforcement system.
Right now, black people are being reminded that they aren’t human, too; that they’re born suspicious and their ability to do so much as breathe is life-threatening.
Right now, unarmed black people are expected to remain calm as they stare down the barrel of a loaded gun, while police officers are excused for pulling the trigger because black people made them ‘fear for their lives.’
Right now, the deafening silence of the justice system where calls for improvement have been made has incited resistance. Disconcertment turned into peaceful protests, peaceful protests into rowdy protests. Rowdy protests are now turning into riots, and hundreds of people are being arrested, proving the effectiveness of a police force that has still been unable to arrest the four involved in George Floyd’s killing. Sadly, the only meaningful contribution by the President of the United States of America is a declaration of violence.
Reports about innocent, unarmed black people murdered in cold blood by American police who continue to justify their actions are sadly commonplace, and once again, social media has been inundated with hashtags and variations of a clarion call for justice. As an African living in Africa, it can be tempting to brush aside the chaos in America as something beyond my concerns, but the rage that these hashtags have carried throughout the entire world cannot be ignored. It reminds me that this is not an American problem, this a global problem – the fight against white supremacy and racism is one for us all. Right now, black people in America are in the trenches and tensions are rising. For some, it is pure, renewed outrage at America’s law enforcement in the knowledge that justice sought will be justice denied. For others, it is yet another call for a new mode of action – one that trumps the deafening silence of those in power and one that assumes those powers in a bid to change the status quo.
The actions that are being protested against today are underlined by racism. In a brazen display of the ignorance they have become so accustomed to, racists continually allow the color of one’s skin to dictate the degree of their humanity they should be accorded. Their prejudice transcends hostility, stereotyping and racial slurs – it has been upgraded into institutionalized attempts to scale up individuals’ racist expressions, and the situation couldn’t be any clearer. For centuries, silence from the authorities has been met with protests. These protests have brought some change, including the dismantling of the segregation of public facilities by race; a system of oppression grounded in law by the Supreme Court of America in Plessy v. Ferguson 163 U.S. 537 (1896). These peaceful protests, however, have assumed a position in a now familiar sequence of events: black person gets killed by those meant to protect them, protests follow the murders, authorities turn a blind eye. Agitation is at an all-time high and now, black people are seeking new ways to demand justice. Peaceful protests once garnered attention and some strides were made, but what use are these protests now if the same things keep happening?
There are many black parents raising their kids in the knowledge of a warped justice system, telling these kids to stand still and comply with orders and asking them never to react – what else is left to tell them, knowing George Floyd complied with the orders given? How do they explain to their kids that it should be okay to go jogging in the street, but in reality, it’s not? That it should be safe to walk to the corner store but currently, that might not be true? That being black should not be enough to make you a target, but it apparently always has been? Black people only ask to be treated with the fairness and dignity they deserve for being human. This is not asking for much.
Right now, perhaps more than ever, black people want justice. Real justice. Not warped stories with downplayed elements that always result in the denial of justice, just like we see today. Never mind whatever ‘findings’ there were or whatever ‘underlying conditions’ Mr. Floyd had. Derek Chauvin, the law enforcement officer, was the cause of his death.
Cover photo credit: @sem_bodysson (Twitter)
*Opening quote credit: video by @emchemist_ (Instagram)