Tired of the fear. Tired of the anger. Tired of dying. Tired of explaining why we’re so angry because we’re so afraid because we keep dying.
The problem is we’re not allowed to be angry. Not if we want people to listen to us. Not just crook their heads at the sound of a loud voice because there’s some fool yelling down the street. I mean listen as though what the person was saying had truth and value that could apply to your life.
Please listen when I say we’re tired of being murdered by cops.
Cops kill lots of people. Poor whites. The indigenous. The mentally challenged. The homeless.
But cops really sink their teeth into killing niggers. And make no mistake, in their eyes, what cops kill are niggers. Darkies. Coons. Sambos. Spades. Schvartes. I’m sure I missed a few. When you see an angry horde of cops choking a brother out on the sidewalk, you can bet your bottom dollar the thought going through their minds is something along the lines of:
Nigger—you’re gonna die.
Cops as we know them have been killing niggers since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, around the time the Black Codes were drafted, literally criminalizing being black. Before that their forbears were killing niggers in the form of slave patrols and night watches and regulators. The crime of living while black is a real thing, an offence written into the foundational laws of America.
You see, the founding fathers were scared of what they had dragged across the Atlantic to the still-new colony, petrified of the nightmare they had created. They thought—they hoped—they were bringing over mindless machines in vaguely human form without sense or guile enough to desire a life outside of eternal servitude. Instead what they got were thinking, feeling human beings unable to forget their ancestral land and culture, unable to forgive the indignity of having being stolen like an object.
At first the slave owners were responsible for keeping their captives in line. Then militias formed to do the job on a larger, more efficient, more vicious scale. Eventually enough blood was shed on Southern battlefields to force the hand of emancipation.
For one brief moment it seemed like the black race had a fair shot in America. A few of us were handed forty acres and a mule and sent on our way. A handful of us were elected to office while others joined the merchant class. But just because slavery was abolished didn’t mean the need for slaves suddenly went away.
The American economy was based on slave labour, so the need to find ways to keep blacks enslaved became paramount. Slavery was now illegal—except as punishment for a crime. So it became an economic imperative that blacks be treated as criminals, as a means of free labour and to keep them from accessing their rights. That meant a lot of negroes filling up the newly created penitentiaries and working the chain gangs, de facto slave labour rented to the state at enormous profit. Because of blacks high arrest rates they were now deemed more dangerous even than when they were staging revolts. As a result, still more of their rights were clawed back. The state demanded blacks be seen as criminals because the economy demanded it. And the police, as they had come to be known, were there to enforce the will of the state. It was a system designed to negatively reinforce itself.
The great migration didn’t help matters. The increase of negroes in Northern cities terrified the white population, who used Southern census data stating that blacks were a criminal race down to the marrow to prevent the recent arrivals from accessing their rights. The notion of blacks as born criminals was thus solidified and the relationship of the police to the black race woven into the fabric of the nation.
Let’s talk a little about George Floyd.
A brief history of modern police brutality:
Amadou Diallo: unarmed; murdered in 1999 after four NYPD cops claim they mistake him for a rape suspect and shoot him 19 times.
Treyvon Martin: unarmed; murdered in Sanford in 2012 for walking through the wrong community by neighbourhood vigilante, George Zimmerman.
Eric Garner: unarmed; murdered in 2014 when New York police place him in a chokehold after approaching him on suspicion of selling “loose cigarettes”.
Michal Brown: unarmed; murdered in 2014 after being shot six times. Accounts of the incident vary, with Ferguson police claiming the officer fired only after Brown first attacked him in his cruiser before fleeing, and Brown’s friend and eyewitness to the crime claiming Brown was standing still and facing the cop with his hands raised.
Tamir Rice: armed with toy gun; esecuted in 2014 after the 12-year-old was shot at point blank range by Cleveland police within two seconds of arriving on the scene when reports came in of a black male brandishing a weapon.
Laquan Macdonald: armed with a knife; murdered in 2014 while trying to walk away from Chicago police after slashing their vehicle’s tire and damaging its windshield with a blade. The 17-year-old was high on PCP at the time.
Walter Scott: unarmed; murdered in 2015 in Charleston after being stopped for a broken brake light. Walter is tasered, then shot five times in the back while trying to run away from the officer, Michael Slager, who lies when claiming Scott had taken his stun gun during a scuffle.
Freddie Gray: armed with a knife; murdered in 2015 in Baltimore by excessive police force resulting in a spinal cord injury while being arrested for possession of a knife.
Philandro Castille: armed with a gun; murdered in 2016 in front of his four-year-old daughter by St. Anthony police during a traffic stop. Castille is shot five times despite warning officers he has a legal firearm and confirming that he isn’t going to pull it out.
Botham Jean: unarmed; murdered in 2018 in his own Dallas apartment when a cop, claiming she thought Jean’s apartment was her’s (she lived directly below him in an apartment with an identical floor plan), shot him, telling authorities she feared he was an intruder and felt in danger for her life.
Ahmaud Arbery: unarmed; murdered by shotgun in 2020 in Glynn County while out for a jog in the wrong neighbourhood after being targeted by two white men, one of them a retired police officer and investigator for the Brunswick County, Georgia District Attorney’s office. Called a nigger as he lay dying on the dirt.
Breonna Taylor: unarmed; murdered in 2020 while sleeping in her own bed after Louisville police force their way into her apartment; they are enforcing a “no-knock warrant” in the hunt for people they mistakenly believe are selling drugs out of the apartment, apparently unaware the people they’re hunting are already in custody. Taylor’s boyfriend, believing the cops are intruders (which they are), returns fire from a legal firearm. Breonna is shot eight times. Amazingly, her boyfriend survives the experience. No drugs are found at the scene.
D'Andre Campbell: armed with a knife; murdered in 2020 after D’Andre calls the Brampton police to his home while in mental distress. Tasered twice, then shot while already immobilized on the ground.
Regis Korchinksi-Paquet: unarmed; dies in 2020 when Toronto police, responding to a distress call, show up at the 24th storey apartment she shares with her family. Within minutes of their arrival she falls from the balcony and is killed on impact.
George Perry Floyd, Jr.: unarmed; murdered in 2020 by a Minneapolis cop’s knee on his neck for resisting arrest and passing a funky twenty.
You might not remember or have ever heard about all those other names, or the hundreds left off the list—but I’m positive you’ve heard of George Floyd. Mr. Floyd, it seems, has sparked something we haven’t seen since Rodney King suffered his legendary beatdown at the hands of the LAPD way back in 1992. One of the major differences of course is that Rodney got to walk away from his ordeal, traumatized, but alive.
At six-foot-seven, the 46-year-old cut an imposing figure. He was father to two daughters and one son, and when he wasn’t doing that he drove a truck and worked as a bouncer. He’d had the beginnings of a rap career in the 90s. Fam and friends called George a “gentle giant” and a “teddy bear”. Police called George a “violent thug” due to some nasty break-ins leading to his aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon charge from back in ’07. By most accounts George had moved to Minneapolis from Harris County Texas to turn his life around and had been successful at doing so, but none of that’s particularly relevant. I’m not here to litigate George Floyd’s past, don’t much care either way. All I care about is what went down on the day he was murdered.
Around 8:02 pm the night of his death, George sits in his car with friends at 38th St. and Chicago Ave. in downtown Minneapolis. He’s just come from inside Cup Foods, a convenience store where the two guys who work there allege he bought a pack of cigs with a counterfeit twenty.
First the fellas confront George and his homies in their ride. When that gets them a bag of air they head back inside and call the cops. They tell them the brother they’re looking for is drunk and out of control.
Around 8:08, officers Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng roll up on George. Lane has his hand on his gun almost immediately and is ordering Floyd to put his hands on the wheel. A minute and a half later George is dragged from his SUV and slapped in cuffs. Of note is that the cops are expecting someone inebriated and unable to control himself. What they get is a scared man who takes no action against the arresting officers.
A second cruiser has arrived outside Cup Foods as Lane and Kueng drag George back to their vehicle. George falls to the ground in an attempt to avoid going in the car and complains about being claustrophobic. We’re eight minutes in and nine minutes from George’s murder. This is when a third cruiser arrives, containing officers Tou Thao and Derek Chauvin. Both cops have numerous complaints on their service records; Chauvin’s includes multiple shootings, one of them fatal. As Thao stands by, Chauvin grabs Floyd and attempts to force him into the car. What happens next is unclear to this writer but Chauvin winds up pulling Floyd through the rear passenger door on the opposite side of the cruiser where he lands on the road and is surrounded by the four cops. Lane puts his weight on George’s legs, Kueng puts his weight on George’s back, and Chauvin has his knee on George’s neck.
Even though George Floyd has the weight of three adult males with heavy equipment attached to their bodies pinning him to the ground, one of them taunts him, goading him to get up. George is already pleading for his mama. “I can’t,” he says. The cop asks George what he wants. There is amusement in his voice. George says, “I can’t breathe.” He says, “Please, the knee in my neck—” He says, “Everything hurts.”
Again George tells the cops he can’t breathe, he keeps telling them over and over. He begs them not to kill him but his pain and his fear don’t register as real to them.
By now George is unresponsive. A code 2 is radioed in which is quickly gets upgraded to a code 3, a jump from nonemergency to emergency medical assistance. This is when Chauvin, who shouldn’t have put it there in the first place, should definitely be taking his knee from George’s neck. Instead he pushes it in deeper.
People watching this unfold start pleading with the cops to get off him. Chauvin’s response is to pull out his mace. Officer Chauvin only removes his knee from George Floyd’s neck when an EMT arrives and tells him to. You get the impression he’d have kept his knee there all day if he’d gotten the chance, that he’d happily continue brutalizing Floyd, fully aware his spirit had already departed from this Earth. His pride in his actions, his calm assurance that this eight minute and 46 second murder is justified is written all over his face.
It’s a notion cops rely on constantly, that their murders are justified, that their viciousness is justified. There is never any remorse for their actions, no lip service paid to feeling bad that they had to take a life and destroy a family, a community, only the defence that the victim was resisting or not respecting their authority or not acceding to their commands and so their horrific, cold blooded execution was justified. In those moments Chauvin has asserted his power, he has made his voice heard, he has proven them all wrong, he has, momentarily, set everything right with the world. He is a god and he is invincible. He has killed a man, casually, without stress or deliberation or concern, and he knows he will get away with it, because the state, the unions, the majority public will gather around him in protection. They will praise him and give him a commendation. He knows this because this is the way it has always been, for his brothers in blue, and for himself. Seventeen complaints in 19 years. Three shootings, One fatality, now two. And that’s what’s on record.
Blowing yet another opportunity to prove they were still actual members of the human race, Hennepin County’s initial report on Floyd’s death blamed arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication, and methamphetimine use as likely causes of death, as though the weight of nearly six hundred pounds pressing down on his body had nothing to fucking do with it.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, a medical examiner operating independent of the Minneapolis PD, concluded George Floyd died of “asphyxiation from sustained pressure when his back and neck were compressed, with the neck pressure cutting off blood flow to his brain.”
Let’s take a second to contemplate what this scenario really represents. Dr. Baden’s clinical analysis of the cause of death doesn’t even factor in the weight on Floyd’s back making it near impossible for his diaphragm to contract. His lungs would be unable to get oxygen into his blood and unable to get carbon dioxide out of it. As a result less oxygen would get to his brain rendering him unconsciousness. Soon he would have lost his pulse—which none of the cops ever bothered to check for. But before he fell unconscious he’d have to contend with the crushing pain of an officer on his legs, one on his back, and the entire weight of yet another on his neck, bending, twisting, squashing his knees, his hips, his spine, his ribs, his clavicle, his trachea, his jaw, into the unforgiving asphalt.
Then consider that once George stopped moving and talking because everything just hurt too much...officer Chauvin continued to maintain pressure on his goddamn neck for another two minutes and 53 seconds. All for the newly legislated capitol offences of passing a bad twenty and resisting arrest.
In a third act twist it turns out Floyd and Chauvin worked at the same nightclub for 17 years. Floyd was indoor security and Chauvin bounced outdoors. They didn’t socialize because according to the club owner Derek got really nervous around black folks.
They may not have liked each other but it is inconceivable they didn’t know each other. Which means Chauvin and Floyd either had a beef—or—they didn’t have a beef and Chauvin was still cool about slowly suffocating someone he’d known for nearly two decades.
In any event, something fascinating happened when the story of George Floyd’s brazen broad daylight murder in full view of cameras broke.
The first thing was the Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo, immediately fired the four killers, charged Chauvin with manslaughter and second degree murder, and stood among the people who had gathered at the murder sight and condemned the actions of his officers in no uncertain terms. He took his hat off as he addressed the Floyd family. Nowhere in his rhetoric was there any crazy talk of the murder being “justified”. He did not in the face of all reason and humanity blindly stand by his officers. Like Hennepin County, he was given the opportunity to prove he was a human being, but unlike them, he embraced it.
Similarly Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, stood before the press and, visibly upset, called out the murderers and demanded reform. It felt like a unicorn sighting had been captured, in the form of a politician taking the kind of stand that could poison his chances of reelection. That his later refusal to consider slashing the police budget proved he was career-minded after all shouldn’t necessarily be held against him.
Unlike the rest of us, George Perry Floyd, Jr. didn’t lead a perfect life. He made mistakes in every state he lived in. While he was making those mistakes he was also putting down roots. George had ties in North Carolina where he was born, Texas where he was raised, served time, and is buried, and Minnesota where he started a new life and then was killed, and in his death all three communities embraced him.
It didn’t stop there. For some reason the country embraced him. Then the continent. Then the world. Not George himself so much, but what George, and his death, and the man who killed him, and the power structure behind him, represent.
Everyone was tired. But they gathered their strength and took it to the streets. On the third night of the protests following George’s murder, the Minneapolis PD’s 3rd Precinct went up in flames.
When we say systemic racism, what exactly does that mean? Turns out it means a lot of things. It means a cycle of oppression written into law. It means a system of denying rights on a legislative level to people of color. It means the practice of red lining, designed to keep minorities within impoverished zones. It means less money coming from property taxes resulting in inferior schools offering an inferior education, keeping people in the same impoverished conditions. It’s systemized bias against the few people that do manage to break free of the line and receive a college education. It’s generations of a society exposed to racially discriminatory imagery, disproportionately negative depictions of black and brown and indigenous people under the heel of the police. It’s a whole byzantine structure of laws and mental paradigms so deeply ingrained that no one sees them for the propaganda they are.
So when we examine this system in relation to the police we are able to recognize that it’s not just one or two “bad apples” spoiling the entire bag, as the unions, the pundits, the POTUS, the average citizen would like us to believe. It’s the entire framework supporting the organization, one designed from its inception to hold non-whites and the underclass down. This is why the results are the same even when there are black and Latinx officers and commanders on the scene. They’re still operating in the same system with the same demands and regulations and modes of thinking.
Self-preservation in the age of cancel-culture should prevent me from saying this. But when the Minneapolis precinct went up in flames—I rejoiced. I was thrilled. I thought, burn it down and start anew. I thought, payback is a fucking bitch. I thought, now you can experience some of the unique brand of fear we feel in your presence every single day.
To be fair, cops experience their own brand of fear. No one denies it’s a dangerous job. Cops see bad things and deal with bad people as a professional necessity. And in the continued presence of unsavory activity the mindset becomes us against them. They come to see themselves not of the citizens but apart from them. In opposition to them. They view us as obstacles to doing their jobs. Basic human rights become impediments to achieving their goals rather than the foundation of our society. Our rights are a weakness. For them. And they begin to resent us for it. We become their enemy. Indistinguishable from anyone else out there guilty of some crime. Their anger and their aggression turns toward us all.
It happens before they hit the streets. Right from training they are indoctrinated with the ethos that they are warriors under constant physical and psychological threat from the public. Over time the system remolds them into bullies. Indeed, for many, that’s how they arrived, attracted to the badge as a means of carrying out their aggressions within a rigid structure designed and authorized by the state. It is a way of monetizing their insecurities and their innate violence, a mechanism to traverse the ocean of fear that exists in place of their souls. Within this framework they will prove they are superior.
To listen to cops, so much of their work is rooted in fear. Every cop who murders claims they did it because they felt threatened. The suspect was acting aggressively they say, and they were scared he might have had a gun or a knife or a stick or a closed fist or a loud voice. The story of scores of burly, pissed off, heavily armed cops rolling up on a perp and pumping round upon round into him even though his hands were in the air because one cop says he thought he made a move for some phantom weapon could fill a entire bookshelf.
It’s one thing to feel threatened. The frequency with which these uniformed thugs resort to murder suggests something more than simple fear of bodily harm. What’s happening in the psychology of the individuals who claim such fear yet willingly choose a profession where the intersection of potential threat and tangible violence is virtually inevitable? Is it possible the true fear that drives them is rooted in waking up to a world that less and less resembles the white ideal they cherish?
White people have always been afraid of black people. They’ve always been afraid of our anger at being stolen from our continent and forced into bondage. The accepted narrative is one of us as violent non-thinking monsters happy only when we’re lazing around and living off whites and of course, raping their women. Whenever black folks have reached their limit and chosen to stand for their rights, white people have become more afraid. And scared white people are the most dangerous people on Earth. Scared white people are capable of a kind of savagery black people can’t conceive of and are seldom prepared for. Scared white people become regulators and vigilantes, they become klan members or angry mobs in order to demonstrate to black people where their place is. These violent white mobs bombed and burned towns when black people got too successful, and used the police to murder those that avoided the flames. They bombed black churches because that’s where the darkies congregated to plan marches or because they were supposed to be a safe haven against the violence. Scared white mobs hung blacks from trees and sliced parts of them off before setting them ablaze or pulverizing their bodies with stones. Scared, angry, violent white mobs have historically been aided and abetted by the police. That’s because the police have been and remain to this day an organization designed from the ground up to control black people so white people can feel safe.
Since the late-90s we’ve been witness to the phenomenon of military creep manifesting in American law enforcement, with escalating brutality emerging as one of its defining tenets.
There’s a fundamental difference between the military and the police: the police are empowered by the state to enforce its laws, which, at least according to its stated mandate, were enacted to protect and serve the public; the military on the other hand are a branch of selective service designed to conduct warfare against an enemy.
There is an act within the United States called Posse Comitatus which prohibits, or at least limits, the use of the military to enforce domestic policy. In theory domestic concerns are the domain of the police.
There exists, however, the 1997 Department of Defence, National Defence Authorization Act, Section 1033, in which municipal law enforcement agencies are allowed to acquire military grade weapons and equipment overstock at a discount, or, in many cases for free, should said LEA qualify for one of many federal grants.
What this means is for decades now cops from big cities to small towns have had easy access to weapons of war: MRAPs, M-16s, body armour, night vision goggles, if the grunts had it, now so had the cops.
It’s true that without the invocation of the Insurrection Act the military can’t be mobilized on American soil. But with the introduction of 1033, in many ways the lines between the two bodies has been blurred. The message the federal government has stealthily doubled down on is the notion of law enforcement adopting the soldier’s mentality, with the citizens standing in for the enemy.
With new toys comes the desire to use them. Watching footage of the protests that have broken out on the streets of New York, Buffalo, Florida, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angelos, time and again you’ll see images of cops hiding behind large vehicles and riot gear, firing military carbines, clubbing, shoving, driving into protestors with their vehicles. It is the height of bitter irony that protests highlighting and responding to police violence have resulted in some of the most excessive police violence in recent memory.
It’s the hypocrisy that gets me. When white men and women armed with AR-15s storm the Michigan House of Representatives over the restriction of their freedoms in the age of pandemic and scream into the faces of the cops, the officers stand by calmly and take it, and the POTUS sympathizes with their points and calls them “good people”. When unarmed black and brown people peacefully stand up to authority they are pepper sprayed and clubbed and shot, they are called thugs and terrorists and unAmerican and told they should be made to go back to where they came from.
When Dylann Roof shot up a black church after sitting with them for an hour and reloaded five times during his massacre, not only was there refusal to label his actions a hate crime despite the history of pissed off caucasians targeting negro churches, not only was there refusal among his friends and the media to label him a racist despite a history of uttering racist comments and jokes, but to add insult to death the cops arrested him without incident and went on to treat poor Dylann to Burger King when he complained he was hungry. When Eric Garner sold singles from a cigarette pack on the corner he was murdered like a fucking dog on the street.
Because he admires the Bull Connors and the Walter Headleys and the George Wallaces of history, the POTUS threatened protestors with vicious dogs and ominous weapons. He said he’d turn the younger cops who were looking forward to the violence on the protestors, who could use them as practise. He threatened the looters with shooters. He said these things hiding in a bunker in fear of the unrest he’d played such a hand in stoking.
And in fairness there were looters. We’ve all seen their work. And it’s wrong. So wrong. Their presence devalues the cause. We’ve seen images of people of all colors breaking windows and grabbing n’ dashing and gloating to the camera. I saw footage of a group of brothers taunting and shoving two white storeowners as people ran from their store holding onto their stuff. I watched, uncertain of how it balanced the scales of justice, and could feel the smug justification of the fears of some members of the audience. Small business owners trying to eke out a living, even ones who undoubtedly benefitted from their social standing, aren’t the true adversary, and in those moments we did ourselves and anyone seeking peaceful reasoned dialogue no favors.
No, I’m definitely no fan of the looting. But I can understand the anger that spawned it. Pent up for months, years, decades. The need to be paid attention to. The reality that without a loud noise people refuse to pay attention. We have been begging for you to pay attention to our reality for centuries.
White people have never listened because they’ve had the advantage of not having to. When we told them what was happening they disbelieved us. Accused us of exaggerating or making it all up. Just recently someone challenged me, disbelieving racism was something I’d ever actually experienced in my lifetime. I had no words that would convince him, and I chose not to even try. It was easy to dismiss what they had never been forced to experience. They didn’t care because they knew it would never happen to them.
But this is precisely why we all have to care. Because, occasionally, a Martin Gugino appears and reminds everyone that ultimately no one is truly safe in the presence of absolute authority and warrior aggression, neither the innocent nor the guilty, the white nor the black.
Martin Gugino was a 75-year-old peace activist the day he let his sense of self-preservation get subsumed by his belief that his skin made him invulnerable to police aggression and approached them as though he expected them to listen. And in his defence, he’d probably seen the armed and screaming white men in Michigan and, not without some precedent, assumed he had free rein. Instead an officer of the law shoved Gugino so hard and so fast he stumbled backward and cracked his skull on the ground. Clearly the old man was a threat and the cops, what looked to be fifty or sixty strong and armed with guns, shields, clubs, helmets, felt in fear of their lives, as though they were soldiers in the middle east and the approaching Gugino a potential suicide bomber.
One warrior cop gave in to his better instincts and attempted to help the old man before being yanked back by a fellow blue blood. They looked down at the septuagenarian, bleeding in a stream from his ear, as they marched over him like he was the nigger they’d just cut down from a tree.
Because the cops are liars as well as bullies, their first response was to release a statement saying Gugino had tripped. Because he has no soul the POTUS called Gugino a radical lefty and accused him of exaggerating his fall. Because the police unions are all powerful, they ranted to the public that they weren’t being shown the proper respect, and, attempting to will the memory of Eric Garner into nonexistence, vehemently denied the existence of excessive force and weaponized bias within the NYPD. “I can’t breathe,” Eric Garner had said in his dying moments.
When video evidence of the Martin Gugino shoving made the police tripping fiction impossible to continue, they suspended the two cops most directly responsible. They were bad apples, they said. In another corner of hell, the union stood by their officers “100 percent.” As if to drive the point home, the city’s 57 member Emergency Response Team resigned in support of the fired officers.
A compelling footnote to this story: when officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, the cops who shoved Gugino were released on their own recognizance after being charged with second degree assault, a huge crowd of Kool-Aid drinkers applauded the hero cops. They didn’t see themselves in Martin Gugino. To them he was as bad as the terrorists ripping apart their streets.
Justice everywhere was under threat right before their eyes. Yet they still didn’t believe it could happen to them.
Everyone’s got their burdens to shoulder.
Stolen land, genocide, persecution based on sex, or religion, or culture, or lack of status, or mental instability. Having to live up to some bullshit fantasy ideal that has nothing to do with what you really are inside. And that’s just the humans. We’re all seriously fucked up.
Right now Black folks burden is that we’re tired. We’re exhausted. Being simultaneously invisible yet always seen as the other wears you out. We’re all each other’s racial representative. If we fail, if we speak too loudly or laugh too wildly, well—you know how those people are. Sure, that one over there succeeded, but not based on merit. No, they benefitted from a hand out. They got in because optics demand they have to have at least one.
There’s just so much goddamn racism in the world. We’re fucking drowning in it. From those who embrace it to those invested in denying its existence, like the blood pouring from Martin Gugino, racism is coming out of our ears. Yet the Candace Owens and the Tucker Carlsons of the world promote the idea that white supremacy is a myth even as they benefit from its existence.
So where do we go from here? Will this ultimately prove a blip? Has this awakening to the absurdity of the systems we’ve created been fostered by the break pandemic has forced upon us? Or is this the start of something deeper? I said I haven’t witnessed a moment like this since Rodney King. And that proved to be a blip. What’s different this time is that the general public—the white people—seem to get it in a way they didn’t 28 years ago. Maybe one video wasn’t enough. Maybe at that time it was easy to dismiss one beatdown, however severe, as an aberration. Maybe it took the critical mass of years of cell videos for the gravity to grow too strong.
I want to believe this is a turning point. But I don’t buy it. Emmett Till was supposed to be a turning point. So was Bloody Sunday, so was Martin Luther King. So were Michael Stewart, Amadou, Treyvon. All turning points leading to more violence and hate.
Since the murder of George Floyd we’ve lost Chantal Moore; Tony McDade; Rayshard Brooks. There will be countless others. The list is eternal. It stretches back four hundred years to the enslavement of the blacks and the decimation of the natives, and it will continue on for four hundred more as we discover newer and more advanced methods of dehumanization.
I believe in the concept of unions. I’ve been the beneficiary of union protection, as have my parents and theirs before them. I believe the unions have a right to protect their officers. But why do so in the face of clear and overwhelming evidence of misconduct? Why oppose reforms that result in less police killings? Why use the power of collective bargaining rights to stymy any progress away from their horrific past? When it’s so clear to us all that the police are broken why use their money and power to oppose officer discipline rather than recognizing that these reforms enrich us all?
There are serious movements afoot to either defund or abolish the police. This ranges from 8 Can’t Wait, which calls for eight reformation proposals, to 8 to Abolition, advocating for eight “non-reformist reforms” designed to reduce the power, scope, funding, authority, and potential for harm of the murderous hate-filled institution, and redistributing its wealth to community-minded organizations. The problem is many of the reforms of the 8 Can’t Wait movement, like banning chokeholds, promoting de-escalation, and my favorite, exhausting all other means before shooting, already exist in PDs around the States and Canada and are ignored as a matter of course.
We can choose a new paradigm. It doesn’t have to be like this. We’ve just taken it for granted so long we’ve ceased to see any other way. Of the two ideas, what speaks loudest to me is that of out and out abolition of the police. If it were up to me we’d destroy the establishment and rebuild it from the ground up, funnelling those excessive police budgets into education, health care, social services, all the touchy feely institutions the uniformed social injustice warriors believe impede their crusade of violence and oppression. The things that would reduce the need for their efforts in the first place.
Of course, this will never happen. Not in my lifetime, not in our children’s lifetime, not while the police unions maintain their level of power and influence. Not while it’s so convenient for the majority population to ignore the realities the rest of us have to exist within. Because they don’t see what we see. They don’t need to.
I’m a black man. That means I’m a target. Every time I leave the house or I’m out late at night I wonder if I’m going to make it home, not because of the bad guys but because of the so-called good guys who the myth implies are there to protect me. To the police I say this:
I know there are good people in your ranks. I want to trust you. But I don’t. I can’t. Because I’m George Floyd. Because the Derek Chauvins in your ranks and the powers that prop them up have proven to me you’re not my ally. You’re not my friend. You’re not my protector. If I were in trouble and I made the mistake of calling you I would automatically cross the invisible line separating the victim from the criminal.
I haven’t written this many words trying to argue black folks are perfect. Some of us commit crimes. Some of us make poor choices. Some of us curse and drink and smoke and fuck and wear loud clothes and listen to loud music. We’re just like you in that regard.
You don’t have to like us. I don’t much care if you hate us.
But you brought us here. We didn’t ask to come. And since we’re here now and for the foreseeable future, we demand that you stop killing us. We demand that you respect our right to remain alive.
And to remain free.