Here we are again.
Precious black lives are being lost. And although we have been demanding change for some time, it hasn’t come. Our culture continues to stay the same, relying upon a system of oppression and racism in order to thrive.
The murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in broad daylight simply couldn’t have been more horrific. The video and images of that white cop cruelly pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck are forever burned into my mind and heart. The cop’s eyes were cold, hollow.
But when I look at the heavily circulated photo of Floyd, before this incident occurred, I see different eyes. I see eyes that were warm and soulful. Eyes that have no doubt witnessed things that the police officer who killed him could never understand, could never come close to understanding.
All of us who are black in America, though we haven’t all had to endure the excruciating experience of 200 pounds of weight pressing into our necks, have felt it figuratively. We’ve felt that knee digging in every time someone has called attention to our darker skin and made us feel less than. We’ve felt that knee every time we’ve been cut off from opportunities, or looked at with suspicion or disdain. We’ve felt that knee every time we’ve been silenced, shamed, or told that we’re not good enough.
People are out in the streets protesting, making their voices heard. In San Jose yesterday, the 101 freeway was shut down. Car windows were smashed. Police officers released tear gas into a crowd of hundreds. Other protests are happening across the county, in New York, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota…
Some are keeping it peaceful, others have resorted to rioting and looting.
But, as the title of this piece reveals, I’m not writing this to condemn the rioters.
For when we do that, we detract from what’s really happening at the core of the matter, and we distance ourselves from any path toward making things better, toward healing the racial divide that has for so long infested our country with so much hate.
And in the meantime: Sometimes peace must be born from chaos.
So instead of condemning the rioters, why not roll up your sleeves and do something about what they’re so pissed off about?
If you’re currently concerned about broken windows, then you’re not paying attention. Because if you were paying attention, you’d be focused on all the anger, pain, anguish, trauma, despair, and helplessness underlying the broken glass. The rioters aren’t rioting from a place of hate, so let’s stop equating their expression of anger to what Chauvin and other officers like him have done. They are rioting because our systems have failed them. Because human beings who should know better have failed them. Because we live in a world that is determined to uphold the status quo, despite the fact that if you’re a person of color, you must spend your lifetime grappling with multiple disadvantages and inequities.
And if your particular worry is that the rioters have taken to the streets mid-pandemic, then consider this: COVID-19 is killing black Americans at three times the rate that it’s killing white Americans. Why was that not concerning you before the riots? For if that fact’s not indicative of how pervasive racism is in our society, I don’t know what is.
Right now, all I know is that I haven’t slept well these last several nights. To have this happen so soon after Ahmaud Arbery was killed for being black while jogging, and after Breonna Taylor, a frontline medical worker, was gunned down in her home, was a devastating blow. It shows that we still have a lot of work to do within ourselves and within this nation.
It shows, more specifically, that we must destroy things. We must take a sledgehammer to the systems that have strangled people of color for so long; we must smash up the hate and oppression at their foundation. At times, though it can be unsettling to admit, the energies of destruction are just as valuable as the energies of creation. In life, we need both. For how can you construct a new way, forge a new path, with the old system as the foundation, fully intact?
And as we work now on destroying what has brought so much racism to the surface, we must do it from a place of love, purpose, and solidarity.
Now is not the time for bickering over symptoms. It’s time to root out the disease.
It’s time for bold conversations. It’s time for new policies. It’s time to hold people accountable. It’s time to demand more from our leaders. It’s time for compassion, for anger, and for tears. It’s time to make our voices heard, to do what we can to draw attention to the injustices that are happening across our country.
I’m tired of looking into my children’s sad eyes, explaining to them how this could happen, how another sacred black life could be ripped away from Earth.
Please, whatever color you are, whatever your background, wherever you come from, we need you fighting for change with us. We need you boldly calling out racism and stopping it in its tracks every single time you witness it. We need you out there, navigating this, understanding this, talking about this; not pretending like it doesn’t exist, much less like it doesn’t have anything to do with you. This is about all of us. If we can’t unite around this, then there’s no hope for us ever uniting around anything.