Before reading this piece, understand that I am not a leading authority on police brutality, racism, white supremacy, etc. This is not an exhaustive resource. I implore you to seek out Black voices to listen to, read, watch, and experience. Read books and stories written by Black authors. Watch movies by Black directors that directly confront these issues. Listen to the Black people in your life without defense and heed their words. Bear witness to their experiences and actively engage in anti-racist activities. Investigate the history of systemic racism in the United States and give priority to the Black voices in that history, to those voices erased from your school’s history textbooks. Don’t leave it up to others to educate you. Take the initiative, stand with the oppressed, learn, listen, and be there when needed. Some educational resources are at the bottom of the piece. Others, you will have to seek out. #BlackLivesMatter
These are not all of the names relevant to this piece. Regardless, these are names you should know. These are names you have seen circulated en masse via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any number of other prominent social media sites, calls for justice surrounding their names, their artist-rendered faces. Not all of them or their respective stories come from the same year or the same place (geographically), but they do all have one thing in common. They are all victims of an inherently racist policing system (and blasé attitude towards the rise of white supremacy) that targeted them without a second thought, solely based on the color of their skin. They were Black people, either brutalized or gunned down by white police. Every. Single. One. And that list continues to grow.
You’ve probably seen the phrase “All Lives Matter,” or the more direct “Blue Lives Matter” plastered across all manner of comments sections underneath posts about the “Black Lives Matter” movement. “Black Lives Matter” began in 2013 under Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, and was founded in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin (a 17-year-old Black man) on February 12, 2012, as Martin was walking home from a convenience store. Less than one year after the founding of this movement, Michael Brown (a 21-year-old Black man), was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white officer with the Ferguson, Missouri police department. Soon after the shooting, contradictory testimonies resulted in the acquittal of Darren Wilson, sparking widespread outrage and riots in the city. Controversy notwithstanding, this, combined with Zimmerman’s acquittal, was perhaps the most significant moment in the history of U.S. race relations since the infamous beating of unarmed motorist Rodney King at the hands of four white Los Angeles police officers on March 3, 1991 (those four officers were all, like Wilson, acquitted of their crimes). “Black Lives Matter” soon picked up renewed steam, and with that momentum came subsequent attempts to discredit or dismantle it by racists obsessed with “Black on Black crime,” “George Soros,” and the notion that white people have also been the victims of unjust policing, as if these killings should matter less for those reasons. These racists never mention “white on white crime,” or the Wall Street criminals who tore down the housing markets (leading to their collapse in 2008), or the notion that statistically, anti-white policing is non-existent in comparison to anti-Black policing. “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” have instead functioned as calling cards, signifiers that those who use these phrases either don’t care that Black lives specifically are the ones being cut short most often, or that they care more about whatever might happen to the cops doing the shooting than what already happened to their victims, with no recognition or acknowledgement of a broken criminal justice system that allows these killings to nearly always go unpunished.
You’ve seen the videos, time and time again. You’ve read article after article. You have heard, read, and seen former cops give testiomy and witness to deliberately causing trouble for no justifiable reason as they all hide behind the "blue wall of silence," because that is what is expected of them. You've seen, on video, police planting weapons on victims they’ve already shot. Planting weed inside of cars they just stopped so they can meet some bullshit arrest quota. You've seen them shove a 75-year-old man to the ground, fracturing his skull, plead not guilty to a crime everyone saw them commit, and get off scott-free. You know of marijuana shops run by white owners thriving while Black people are jailed for non-violent possession of the same substance (regardless of your feelings on marijuana itself, how the policing of it has been handled is racist and unjust). In fact, a Nixon-era presidential aide recently admitted to sanctioning the war on drugs as a means of controlling and targeting Black people, especially in poor neighborhoods, wherein the drugs were funneled in federally. You’ve witnessed systemic racism on display in Detroit, in Los Angeles, in New York, in D.C. No less than 5 lynchings across the American south have been rules as suicides because the police did not want to investigate or do the paperwork. A Black NASCAR driver found a noose in his garage. These are not all the injustices relevant to this piece. And they don't exist in a vaccuum.
Introductory Statement – The Facts are These
In February, in Glynn County, Georgia, a young Black man named Ahmaud Aubrey was lynched by two white vigilantes, Travis and George McMichael. They shot him three times from their truck after pursuing him as he ran on a morning jog. The excuse these racists gave for their actions was to describe Aubrey as “matching the description” of someone who was suspected of several local break-ins, and claim that he ran up to their truck and attacked them. But the cell phone footage of the lynching (which was not discovered/published until May, three months later), captured by a man who has since been arrested for being complicit in Aubrey’s murder, made abundantly clear that this was not the case. Additional video footage, published after an arrest and subsequent murder charges were brought against the McMichaels, later revealed that Aubrey was simply on a morning jog, and had stopped by an abandoned property earlier in the day to catch his breath. Yet, even after this video footage was released, and the charges brought, articles continued to surface showing Aubrey shoplifting from a local shop…years ago, as a teenager. I suppose the purpose of these findings was to determine whether Aubrey deserved to be lynched, to be hunted down and killed by these monsters. I would hope that we all know the answer to that, but I’m not naïve enough to imagine there aren’t any people who would give the wrong answer anyway.
In the same month the public learned of Ahmaud Aubrey’s lynching, more information came to light as pertained to racist policing. With a no-knock warrant for a separate property, and the man they were after already in custody, police in Louisville, KY, performed a high-intensity raid on the home of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black EMT, opening fire on her apartment, and arresting her boyfriend for attempted self-defense with his own firearm (he has since been released). Taylor herself was shot eight times in the spray of bullets, some of which were found in other people’s homes after all was said and done. We only learned about the incident months later, and while officer Brett Hankison (one of the raid's participants) has since been fired from the LMPD, officers Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly have not, and no arrests have been made, nor any further action taken.
Not long after this information came to light, we all witnessed via cell phone video the murder of George Floyd, who was choked by Milwaukee officer Derek Chauvin when Chauvin planted his knee on Floyd’s neck, suffocating him for nine minutes, as the other three cops present watched. The initial police report stated that Floyd had died of a medical mishap while being arrested, and that was how the family first found out about his death. The video, however, showed a deliberate attempt by Chauvin to literally squeeze the life out of Floyd’s body, and it wasn’t until protests across the country began to grab national recognition that Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, which was later updated to second-degree. Third-degree murder essentially indicates that the victim died of some complication brought on by the perpetrator, but that the death was not intentional or meditated. Yet, Chauvin is seen in the video deliberately and knowingly shoving his knee down on Floyd’s throat. This is murder in the second degree. (A private autopsy report ordered by Floyd’s family concluded that he died of asphyxiation and tracheal collapse, in antithesis to the ‘official’ report – the one given to news outlets – that Floyd died of medical abnormalities accelerated by the choking). However, not only did Chauvin walk away with a light sentence initially, it took weeks of protests and national outcries before the other officers complicit in allowing Chauvin to commit this heinous crime had been arrested and the sentence against Chauvin was updated.
“Racism isn’t getting worse. It’s getting filmed.” – Will Smith
What about the videos we don’t have? What about the footage from the bodycams that have been turned off? What if the march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the subsequent beating of its participants hadn’t been televised? How many of these instances of racist policing have we not known about?
Why Speak Up Now?
I have kept mostly silent on social media regarding these issues (apart from retweeting others), not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I didn’t know if anything I said would be of any use. I did not think I could provide (in any meaningful way) insight, encouragement, comfort, etc., that hadn’t already been provided by someone far closer to the situation(s) at hand. There are people more qualified and appropriate to speak on these things than I could ever be. I was also of the mind that anyone who really knows me should know, without question or hesitation, what my stance on this would be, so I shouldn’t need to say anything for the right people to know where I stand. However, a friend of mine recently posted that the silence from white people surrounding this situation is the most deafening part about it, and that regardless of whether we were the right ones to deliver a message about white supremacy and police brutality, not saying anything at all speaks more to who we are and how we view this situation than whether or not we fumble the words. So, no, I may not have the best words to share nor be the best person to share them. I can’t say anything better or more articulate than what’s already been said. But I can’t say nothing.
I. A History of Violence
If you, like me, went to any sort of private or religious school for your education, you likely were never taught about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 (also known as Black Wall Street), wherein a white mob attacked residents, homes, and businesses in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The attack lasted for 18 hours, from May 31 – June 1. Most news reports of the event were squashed, and it is seldom included in most history textbooks used in American public or private education. In fact, before the HBO series Watchmen debuted, most white non-historians likely had never even heard about it. But these sort of events did not exist in a vacuum. Tulsa was a highly segregated city at the time, with a long history of racially-motivated mob violence, and this was the largest racially-motivated attack in the city’s history.
As previously stated, on March 3, 1991, unarmed Black motorist Rodney King was severely beaten by four white officers with the Los Angeles police department. These officers were all acquitted of the charges brought against them, the official ruling being that not one of them was guilty of using excessive force. This sparked widespread riots, largely in Los Angeles, and yet nothing was ever done regarding the officers or their crimes.
On April 20, 1999, Columbine High School was shot up by two young white men whom the news media deemed “mentally ill,” citing that the men were frustrated with feelings of isolation, placing the blame on the victims for essentially creating their own murderers. But later uncovered journals revealed the boys were avowed white supremacists, and racially targeted Black and Brown students at the school during the shooting, which occurred because the bomb they planted failed to go off.
In 2015, Dylan Roof, a young white supremacist, marched into a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and fatally shot nine people. During this time when mass shootings were becoming more and more prominent, especially against people of color and international origin, the fact that it was a Black church seemed of little importance to those more concerned with Roof’s “mental health.” To Roof, however, the motive was always clear. He was there to kill Black people – in fact, he said as much upon entering the church. After the shooting took place, the police took him to Burger King… yes, you read that correctly. Unarmed black protestors get tear gas and riot gear; white mass shooters get to “have it their way.”
One thing many white people, especially the racist ones, love to do when en masse protests break out as the result of police brutality or as reactions to unpunished white supremacy, is quote MLK, citing his need to protest “peacefully,” using his words “I have a dream,” without ever understanding the context or content of that speech as they are meant to be understood. But those same people, when faced with the notion of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem at football games, are enraged that someone would “disrespect” the flag, the troops, and the country that flag flies for by not committing wholesale to saying he loved the country that continually brutalizes Black people at the hands of those meant to protect them. Furthermore, they deliberately ignore quotes from MLK himself regarding the dangers of the “white moderate” in his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (look it up), and miss the fact that although he was non-violent, that does not indicate MLK being peaceful. Quote King, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Not that either version of him mattered to the masses anyway – he was still assassinated.
Anyone with a brain will know there are far more instances of racially-motivated violence and discrimination than those I have mentioned here. In fact, it used to be so bad, segregation-wise, that young Black children had to be escorted to school by the army just to avoid getting hit by those who though “race mixing” was an act of Satan. And those segregationists (most of them, in fact) are still alive today. White people have an exceedingly long history of brutality when it comes to the changing of the status quo in regards to race, and until the generation responsible for allowing that brutality to go unchecked is either booted out of power or becomes unable to wield it, the road to any sort of recovery will be met with their resistance.
And that racist resistance came into the story full force in 2016, when Donald J. Trump, former host of The Apprentice and king of bankrupting his own businesses (yet somehow staying rich), ran for President of the United States on a platform of lies, misinformation, hatred of journalists and accountability, and without the aid of the popular vote, won. Trump’s rhetoric around race-related matters and the hypocrisy therein could fill ten history textbooks, but suffice it to say, things began getting more public when Trump encouraged violence against people of color at his rallies, talked of “the good old days” of Black people getting beaten in the street, and catered so generously towards white supremacists that David Duke, former grand wizard of the KKK, endorsed him for President. He has taken to Twitter during this time to defend the AR-15-carrying white people storming capitols because they can’t get haircuts, and issued a pointed threat of violence towards protestors in Milwaukee (“when the looting starts, the shooting starts”), who are upset that a cop can get away with a light sentence post-meditated-murder, and his accomplices can walk free. Most recently and egregiously, Trump amplified his hostility towards Black Americans and their allies, threatening military action against protest groups, hiding in a bunker with the White House lights out after giving the statement. (Upon exiting, the illegitimate President ordered the police to tear-gas a crowd of peaceful protestors in front of St. John’s Church so that he could get a photo op, holding a Bible – to quote AOC – “like it’s burning him.” The church’s leaders have continuously and ferociously condemned Trump’s actions, citing that he “doesn’t get to use God as a prop.”)
Is it any wonder that groups like N.W.A. were founded, or that songs like “Fuck Tha Police,” were written?
II. Black Lives Matter vs Detractors
“Black Lives Matter” was born of a need to educate people on how Black lives are discriminately targeted in instances of police brutality and overreach. At no point did anyone who has adopted this phrase say that other lives don’t matter. But to racists, that is all that they can hear. Thus, the phrase “All Lives Matter” was born and spread like wildfire. Regardless of intentionality, the phrase deliberately takes the attention off of Black people in an effort to redistribute it among those who are not being discriminated against systemically. Another, more pointed version of this, “Blue Lives Matter” refers to the notion that cops also have lives and should not be targeted for discrimination. (This racist “thin blue line” mentality has even been used to sell merch with an American flag on it, one stripe torn away to reveal the color blue, which if you didn't know, is actually illegal). Noticeably, this thinking misses two crucial factors: 1) cops are not discriminated against in any sort of systemically supported fashion, and 2) “blue” is not a skin color. Cops are not distrusted or discriminated against because of the color of their skin, but because of the actions of those who share their profession. One quote I’ve seen recently that demonstrates this well is: “If you have 4 bad cops, and 50 other cops don’t speak out against them, then you have 54 bad cops.”
III. Protestors of Lockdown vs. Protestors of Death
Most people that engage in “All Lives Matter” and/or “Blue Lives Matter” rhetoric are white, and those who always seem to have a problem with how Black people protest are mostly white, so it’s worth looking at how/what white people protest. Currently, the whole world is experiencing a global-scale pandemic thanks to COVID-19. White people, who are fed up with being on lockdown in order to stop the disease from spreading, march up to capital cities with AR-15 assault rifles, and hang images of their governors from trees outside their homes. The police that show up to these protests never get violent, even when the white protestors are screaming in their face and threatening to kill them so that they can get their hair cut. These are the same people that consistently tell Black people to protest “peacefully,” and then get pissed when Kaepernick takes a knee, a form of protest that an actual Marine veteran suggested to Kaepernick. However, when Black protestors take to the streets in order to protest widespread police brutality and racially-motivated second-degree murder going largely unpunished, they are met with tear gas, rubber bullets, and riot gear. Most recently, a Black journalist name Omar Jimenez was arrested on camera in Minneapolis; the police did not give a reason for the arrest, but he was subsequently released. His cameraman, who was white, was not approached or arrested at all. In fact, when the cameraman said “I’m with CNN,” the officer(s) said something to the effect of “okay, you’re good,” despite not heeding the same words from Jimenez. A white, Louisville-based Wave 3 journalist and her cameraman, who were on the ground covering the protests, were pelted with rubber bullets by an officer on the scene. They did nothing to prompt getting shot at, but the officer fired anyway.
Many folks on social media will argue that rioting is the point at which an otherwise legitimate protest becomes illegitimate. They will say that “peaceful” protest is the proper way, the “right” way to go, without any idea what that actually means (“peaceful,” in most of these cases, means “civil,” “polite,” “comfortable”), entirely ignoring that time and time again, it does not work properly. Many of these folks also claim the Christian faith, stating that Jesus would wish people to approach these situations with love, without consideration of the fact that even Jesus (a person of color and refugee whom the state considered politically dangerous) destroyed property in the face of injustice. For those people who fail to acknowledge this, “peaceful” means pacified. It means “unobstrusive.” The goal is to quell these protests enough so that they don’t have to confront the root cause. Almost always, they will state that the burning and destruction of property is wrong, but are apathetic to the rioting that ensues when a sports team wins or loses, when students take to the streets and burn couches, cars, and destroy property, with little to no resistance from police. Meanwhile, riots that largely consist of black people upset because racist governmental and policing systems target them time and time again are met with a militarized police force ready to tear gas them until they can’t breathe either. Seven people were shot at the Louisville, KY protests. David McAtee, another unarmed Black man, was killed, his body left on the streets for twelve hours before being pronounced dead. The notion that protests have to be peaceful to be legitimate is code for “make them quiet so I can ignore them,” or “at least let me be able to look away if I want to.” In fact, most Black Lives Matter protests across the nation have remained entirely peaceful until either the police or white supremacist groups get tired of not having beaten up or brutalized the Black people in front of them yet. I've had friends attend these protests, which later turned into riots, and not one of those riots began as the result of a protestor causing trouble. Every single violent beginning was initiated by the police or white supremacists. If your heart breaks for Target, a multi-billion dollar corporation that can rebuild its store without making a dent in their profit margins, but not for the loved ones of Floyd, Aubrey, Taylor, McAtee, McClain, and so many others, your heart is in the wrong place. If your heart breaks for people who have to deal with businesses having glass shattered, but not for Black people who are continually and systemically targeted by police – now with the President encouraging, even sanctioning, the military against its own citizens – your heart is in the wrong place.
V. Implicit White Supremacy
So, how can white people help? What can we do to make sure that we are good allies and that we don’t overstep our bounds at the risk of behaving like white saviors (centering the movement around ourselves or attempting to become its leaders in an effort to absolve our guilt)? The first thing we can do is to listen to the Black people around us without defense. Bear witness to their pain and frustration. What do they have to say and, to take it one step further, what about it is uncomfortable for us to hear? What have we come to accept as normal? In other words, we need to check our privilege. White privilege (which does not mean that a white person’s life hasn’t been hard or that they haven’t faced discrimination or adversity, but rather that that discrimination/adversity/hardship is not because they’re white) is a systemic problem in the United States, one that contributes to other issues such as discriminatory policing, hiring discrimination, and individual prejudice. Whether we want to believe it or not, white people have been raised in a society that values their beings above others, and that educates in discriminatory fashions. Acknowledging the existence of white privilege (and its relationship to white supremacy) is the first step to confronting the rhetoric and behaviors we learned or absorbed that uphold and enable systematic racism.
Another thing we can do is to recognize the differences between explicit and implicit white supremacy. There are any number of phrases and words that explicitly endorse white supremacy, but there are far more than implicitly endorse it that you may not even realize do this. One of these is the notion of being “colorblind” or saying, “I don’t see color.” This phrase is usually well-intentioned, but if we pause, we can see that it is deeply flawed, and especially convenient when coming from a position of privilege. Saying “I don’t see color” erases the need to see color and see which color is facing discrimination on a continual basis. Not seeing color is the quickest way to denial that color-based discrimination is a rampant and systemic problem.
“The Holocaust was legal. Slavery was legal. Segregation was legal. People who hid Jews in their homes were criminalized. People who freed slaves were criminalized. People who stood up for equality and justice were criminalized. Legality is not a guide for morality!” – StanceGrounded (@SJPeace on Twitter)
“It positively chills you to the bone the degree to which white people will accept almost any atrocity if you convince them it’s only happening because THESE PEOPLE WILL NOT FOLLOW THE RULES.” – Brandon David Wilson (@Geniusbastard on Twitter)
(Some cite the need to talk to the people in our lives who refuse to acknowledge these things, and continually hop on the “All/Blue Lives Matter” train no matter how obvious the racism is in these instances of police brutality. Sometimes, this is useful, seeking to educate those who are open to learning. But there are those who simply will not be open to learning about these things, and no matter what the situation is, will always “play devil’s advocate” or “look at things from their perspective,” when they’re really just using it as an excuse to be racist, often attempting to justify trauma, asking marginalized folks to “pimp out” their traumas in order to be taken seriously or considered worthy. And although this hasn’t happened to me personally, sometimes those people are family. What I am about to say can be difficult to engage with, but is nonetheless vital: you are allowed to, and in some cases you must, cut them off. You will not get through to them, and the best way to deal with those who refuse to acknowledge their own internal racism is to simply not engage with them at all. Challenging racism is always a worthy cause; challenging racists in a comments section is, more often than not, a losing battle. Again, this is not always the case, and it is up to white people to confront and fight the racism prevelant in their own families if those families are open to hearing what needs to be said, but take care whom you challenege; in some cases, they will not hear you because they don’t want to.)
VI. Black Cinema and the Hypocrisy of White Savior Movies
One of the primary ways “not seeing color” manifests as a legitimate stance is through the power of film. This is a film blog, so one might wonder why I didn’t start with this section, but I wanted to establish a base for why people become so pissed off when yet another white savior movie like The Help or Crash or The Blind Side is embraced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the best of its year, despite thematically putting out some seriously problematic messages regarding race relations. White savior films are films that tell definitively Black stories through a white lens (i.e. the story is about the relationship between Black and white people, but the protagonist is the white man/woman, who gets to feel good because they taught the Black person something or learned that racism is bad). Usually, the thematic core of these films comes down to: “racism will go away if people are just nice to each other.” That has never been the case. In fact, Steve McQueen’s Best Picture-winning 12 Years a Slave confronts this head-on by placing “kind” slave owners (one of whom is played by Benedict Cumberbatch) in the path of the main character, Solomon Northup, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery by two white men. Though Cumberbatch treats Northup with kindness, that is not enough to absolve him; he is still a slave owner, and if he wished to stop being one, he could stop. (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t). It boggles me to this day the amount of people who have seen this unflinching treatise on the horrors of American slavery, and continuously fail to see the point of Cumberbatch’s character.
The most recent instance of white filmmakers’ obsession with white saviorism came in the form of Green Book, a decently made but poorly told story of a white driver teaching his Black passenger…how to be more Black. Throughout the film, the Viggo Mortenson’s white protagonist, Tony Lip, calls out Mahershala Ali’s character (Dr. Don Shirley, a Black, queer muscial genius) for playing classical music for rich, white audiences in the segregated south, despite the fact that those rich people are the ones paying Shirley. Other racist things Tony engages in included teaching Don Shirley how to eat fried chicken, and telling him that because he came up in a poor family, he’s more Black than Shirley is. What the film actually ends up doing through this is absolving white people of the need to recognize and reckon with their systemic advantages over Black people (because see? Tony’s disadvantaged too), which makes sense when one considers all three screenwriters and the director are white men with a history of problematic scripts. (Even producer Octavia Spencer, the one Black producer they had, was only brought onto the project as the result of a won lottery). Green Book was awarded Best Picture in 2018, but the part that upset people the most was that it won over so many other nominees that year that had valuable things to say about racism and race relations in the U.S. and in the rest of the world. Among these were historic nominee Black Panther, a superhero film about how it is wrong to attempt to stay neutral in situations of oppression, as well as BlacKkKlansman, one of Spike Lee’s best films, which touched on the inherent racism present in the policing system, and the dangers of not fighting white supremacy directly. The loss of these two films to something as sanitized and problematic as Green Book very much echoed the 1989 showdown of Driving Miss Daisy, another acclaimed white savior film that won Best Picture vs. Do the Right Thing, another Spike Lee film that tackled race relations in a particularly incisive and honest way.
There are so many other wonderful films that tackle race relations better than the white savior movies we’re continually told are great, so let me highlight a few of them here, as well as a few Black directors you can look to for proper stories about the black experience that don’t use a white protagonist to do so.
Films/Shows: 13th, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, Blindspotting, Do the Right Thing, Fruitvale Station, Get Out, The Hate U Give, Malcom X., Selma, Straight Outta Compton, When They See Us
Creators/Directors: Ryan Coogler, Daveed Diggs, Ava DuVernay, F. Gary Gray, Spike Lee, Jordan Peele
I have said my piece on this situation, and will continue to retweet, re-post, and share the voices of black people who share their experiences and those who can articulate what I have said here with much greater clarity. I will continue, as I have been asked to, to take on the responsibility of educating myself on racism and systemic oppression; I will not leave the burden of education to the marginalized. I will continue to listen to Black voices, heed their words, and bear witness to their pain – a pain in which my own body has been complicit. I will allow myself to be held accountable. I will pursue the discomfort of accountability.
To quote Sarah Jones, an Assistant Professor at Ohio University (who earned her Doctorate while a Graduate Teaching Associate at Arizona State), “At ASU, I became certified with the Institute for Civil Dialogue. Myself and other facilitators would use this format for public dialogue as a way to talk about controversial issues in the community or in our classrooms; it’s unique and unlike debate because the goal is to seek an understanding of positions, not motives (i.e., instead of ‘Why do you think that?’ we ask, ‘How did you come to understand it that way?’). Anyway, the round starts with us unveiling some statement of provocation and asking for volunteers to fill seats on a spectrum of opinion—strongly agree, agree somewhat, neutral/undecided, disagree somewhat, disagree strongly. One time, we hosted a Civil Dialogue on #BLM and policing and TO THIS DAY, the words of one of the students who participated haunt me. It’s the best, most simple and clear and compelling explanation for BLM I’ve ever heard:
‘“No one’s saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ because others don’t. They’re saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ because we forgot.”’
I hope that those of you who didn’t know before know definitively where I stand now. And I hope you know that Black Lives DO Matter. I have put a link to some anti-racism resources below, as well as a thread of Black people who have been the fatal victims of unjust policing that I was not able to include at the top of this piece. Know their names. Pursue ACTION in whatever forms available to you. If you are able to donate, vet those organizations you donate to; make sure you know where the money goes. (Unfortunately, some funds get set up during times like these, and the money never makes its way to where the fund says it will. Change.org, a for-profit website, as well as "activist" Shaun King, often pocket their donations.)
One last thing: it is not enough to post memorialized images of the victims on social media (in fact, there have been many calls to stop sharing the videos of the murders, as they can be triggering for Black individuals, and are often critiqued as “trauma porn.”) It is not enough to simply be aware of systemic racism. It is not enough to stay neutral in the hopes of not rocking the boat or being afraid of overstepping. We must actively fight this evil.
“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist; we must be anti-racist.” – Angela Y. Davis
“Fuck Tha Police” – N.W.A.
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.