Today, I woke up feeling overwhelmed with various emotions to the point that work did not feel important. I am fortunate in that I work at a company that offers me flexible time off and have a manager that repeatedly stresses how important it is to put myself first. I took the day off. I spent it following the news and learning about ways to help from my colleagues, but mostly just felt as pessimistic as ever.
Firstly, I’m obviously privileged to only experience these emotions now. For many in America, this sense of frustration, confusion, and rage must be the “normal” that so many non-blacks are desperate to return to. I watched as swarms of cops vindictively terrorized the community they’ve sworn to protect. I watched police officers attack journalists, ram their SUVs into protesters, mace children, assault black college students for recording them, take out eyes and shed blood using semi-lethal rubber bullets, and worst of all, cause the death of yet another innocent black man. I’m sorry, but when it is your job to enforce the law, and you are in the position of power, you don’t get to act like you’re in a street fight. My past interactions with police have been pleasant, but these videos have revealed something much deeper and darker to me, and it’s fair to say I might not ever feel safe in the presence of police again. Admittedly, this realization is just evidence of more privilege, because I know a group of people that feel this way every day.
What’s most shocking to me is the total lack of accountability. Two police officers were fired for the tasing of the black college students even though body cam evidence shows a dozen officers swarming around the car aiding and abetting the assault. In Louisville, where David McAtee got shot and killed at a protest, they fired the Police Chief, who was already scheduled to retire. The mayor has confirmed that he will keep his accrued time off and will receive his full pension. These are all empty gestures and simple reiterate how utterly broken the entire system is. The backdrop to all this is the virus that has been disproportionately harming the black community and an orange man in the white house who can’t even bare to utter the words “black lives matter”.
Many cultural icons, leaders, and corporations have come out and shared messages of solidarity, but none have offered me much solace, because the people in position to change things are the ones that have been repeatedly fueling this racist fire. And at a time when the country needs them the most, they are hiding in bunkers or hiding in plain sight (looking at you NFL). I feel disgusted and it has been difficult finding hope in a time like this. People say it took international embarrassment for the US to enact changes during the 60s civil rights movements, but as far as I can tell the US has been an embarrassment for 3 years and things have only gotten worse.
Sadly, I’m surrounded by similarly privileged people that don’t appear to share the level of discomfort that I have with what’s going on. I hear comments that reduce the protests to dangerous mobs looting storefronts. Or aloud wonderings that seem to attribute the violence to their blackness. I’m most troubled by the lack of desire to learn about the culmination of hundreds of years of legal oppression that exploded this weekend into justified outrage. Trevor Noah put it best:
If you felt unease watching that Target being looted, try to imagine how it must feel for black Americans when they watch themselves being looted every single day. Police in America are looting black bodies.
These people around me are privileged enough to ignore what’s going on probably because it doesn’t feel like their fight. It’s often framed as White vs. Black, and they are often neither. They probably feel that, like all things, this too will pass and their lives will continue unaffected. They aren’t wrong. Some can even easily elect to live in another country, so they look around at what’s going on in the US and simply say “I’m fucking outta here in a couple years”. It’s depressing. In an effort to find voices that resonate with mine, I’ve found myself on Twitter, consuming videos and comments that lifted me as much as they demoralized me. Luckily, I’ve found a friend that appears to share my sense of frustration, and we’ve commiserated through our retweets and hearts. This connection has done much to keep me sane.
I’m not sure exactly what I can do to help the movement, but I’m trying to learn more while not completely filling my headspace with negativity. I’ve started small, by donating to some nonprofits for ending police violence and legal assistance. I would encourage anyone with the means to do the same — take advantage of your company’s charitable matching policy if there is one. If nothing else, I hope everyone could do the minimum of listening and learning from different sources before jumping to conclusions. Try and separate the legitimate and peaceful protests from the senseless street crimes — know that you can support one without supporting the other — but ultimately understand that they are different expressions of the same outrage. Most importantly, do not forget that four cops murdered a black man on video for the suspected use of a fake $20 bill, and their crime went unpunished.