“Tell your story…” is what this blog’s empty page prompts.
But what story do I have to tell?
I have never been wrongfully arrested. I don’t know anyone who has been wrongfully arrested and beaten by the police, neither in the US nor in Japan. Japanese people don’t get that treatment. In the US, we are a model minority; here in Japan, we are Japanese. And so our days go on uneventfully, peacefully, and we have no stories to tell.
When you are dark-skinned, on the other hand, you have stories of violence to tell. Stories of fear, of causing fear in others even though you didn’t do anything wrong, of hearing them justify their fears — “his hands were in his pocket,” “she was looking at me wrong” — to look away from their racism. It is unimaginable. I cannot begin to grasp the anger they feel towards a world that not only leaves them with such stories, but silences them when they try to speak.
Do I understand their anger, then, when they burn buildings and loot shops?
Before you accuse me of siding with the oppressor, I will say I do know that there is a course of history that led Black people to violence. I do know that they bear the scars of chains and slavery. I do know that they face systemic oppression, and that they are shut down and shut out. I don’t blame the rioters, because in a society that not only ignores your people but routinely murders your people, there is only so much injustice one can take.
But let’s look at who the riots are really affecting. 28% of the Black population in Minnesota are classified as poor, compared to 7% of the white population there. People of color are more likely to work in low-paying service sector jobs — such as store clerks and waiters. And when they lose their jobs along with their white colleagues, they will both send out résumés but the unemployed Blacks are 50% less likely to get callbacks compared to their white colleagues. Black- and immigrant-owned businesses are hit especially hard because insurance doesn’t promise full reparations and a brand new start. They tend to have less credit and assets than white business owners, meaning that they can’t withstand long closures. Insurance contracts are much more complicated and stingy than we would like to think, so there might not be enough insurance coverage for all of the damages. Not to mention the fact that getting your losses back in insurance would never completely heal the pain of losing your own business in chards and ruins.
In the meantime, Brian C. Cornell, the CEO of Target Corporation, has a net worth of at least $57 million. That’s well over 10000 times the median net worth of Black families in the US, at $4900. In other words, the top executives at Target are not hurt by the riots. Instead, the clerks and the janitors are hurt. They are often the very people who the riots were supposed to be standing for.
When I think of these things, the reality that movements on the ground hit the hardest on people on the ground, I can’t say I readily support the violence. I can’t say that I support the burning of workplaces, the looting of shops, because that is not simply ineffective, but also counterproductive.
But then, what can Black people do? The oppressors have oppressed relentlessly. They shot Martin Luther King, Jr; they shot Gandhi; they ran SUVs into peaceful protesters; they started fires on purpose to lure Black people and arrest them. They didn’t arrest the cops. They didn’t demilitarize the police force. They didn’t drive change.
They defanged and declawed the minority so much and they have gotten so good at it; the community is deeply divided and the victims reap what the perpetrators sow. Doubt begets doubt. Suspicion clouds our eyes. Who do we trust? Who do we follow? Probably not Trump — but who then?