This is no time for respectability politics.
I am sick of watching this same, tireless cycle. I can’t sit by and just stay silent about this any longer.
We all know how the cycle begins: The police kill an unarmed black person. Just about every 28 hours we see this occur, and people have to rally around a new hashtag, representing another life which has been prematurely taken by the militarized police force. Since the Black Lives Matter movement began, and protests spread across the U.S., more people have become aware of this ill in the foundation of American society which has occurred in different forms for many generations. Ever since slaves were brought over in ships from Africa forcibly against their will. Ever since the slave patrols of the pre-Civil War South hunted down black people who were taken from their homes and separated from their families, only guilty of trying desperately to get free. Ever since Jim Crow laws were passed in the South following reconstruction, oppressing and segregating black people, even after they had legally gained their freedom. Ever since mass incarceration criminalized an entire race of people.
What happens next? You know the script. The police release a statement, stating that the offending officers were “fearful for their lives”, and that there was a “struggle”, like Felix David, who was killed this weekend by NYPD for grabbing a police radio in a halfway house for the mentally disabled. The disgusting pig who shot Walter Scott also used this line, saying that there was a struggle for his taser. A few days after he made his statement, the infamous video came out and suddenly it became obvious that the murderer shot Scott in the back multiple times then dropped the taser near his body. We might have caught this lie, but how many other officers are lying about their stories after these altercations?
Of course, the truth doesn’t matter, because the mainstream media will soon pickup the story, whether national outlets like CNN and Fox News, or local news affiliates. The official statement from police is treated as if it is literally the gospel, as long as no video contradicts their claims. Stories from witnesses are minimized, and this has the effect of skewing public opinion toward the memories of officers, whose careers are on the line and have no reason to be completely truthful. It was only a few years ago that many Occupy Wall Street activists had their cases thrown out after livestream footage directly contradicted the statements from officers in court. Why would they still be trusted by the public?
Oh, right, because the victim is black. In fact, he isn’t a victim but a suspect. During George Zimmerman’s trial, Trayvon Martin was essential found guilty of being shot to death by Zimmerman in the fucking street. You know that you live in a fucked up society when the most victimized portion of the population are seen as criminals. Yet, a few days after a suspect is shot, or choked in front of a camera, we hear about crimes he committed in the past. In fact, one “exception” was Akai Gurley, who was killed in the Pink Houses because the officer had his gun drawn when opening the door to the stairwell and somehow accidentally fired it. NYPD Police Chief, Mr. Broken Windows, Bill Bratton said that Gurley’s death was a true tragedy, as if it is okay when people with criminal records are murdered by police. Meanwhile, Eric Garner sold illegal cigarettes and was yelling at police, so even though he was choked to death on camera, there was no cause for Daniel Pantaleo to be indicted. Today on CNN, they showed Freddie Gray’s funeral and literally had a graphic which called him a “suspect”.
While this cycle has gone on for generations, the public has recently been much more aware of these shootings and other incidents of police brutality. Since the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, a nationwide movement has been spawned, sparking protests whenever another fellow human being is gunned down by a police gang member. People have been taking the streets and uniting for justice throughout the country, which is the one beautiful aspect of this entire cycle. However, the mainstream media usually minimize these protests, unless there is “violence”. Thousands of people can march, sing songs, and have rallies all day which are completely peaceful, but once one window is broken, CNN will cut to these images and videos and declare “BREAKING NEWS”. The police can kill hundreds of people and get trips to the Bahamas or paid vacations, or simply go into retirement with a pension and have dinner with their families every night. Gangs of riot police can shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at a crowd of people, but unless they actually attack the media, like what occurred in Ferguson, then it is ignored. Once a window is broken or even a water bottle is thrown at a cop, suddenly the entire group of protesters are violent animals. What message does this tell us besides vile racism? The violence of the state is invisible, as long as it is targeted on the equally invisible, oppressed population. Once there is any resistance from the public, entire groups will be considered violent and irrational.
The privileged, ignorant bloc on Twitter and Facebook are even worse. Once protests turn “violent”, which to be clear, usually refers to destruction of property rather than human life, the participants are considered animals who need to prove their basic humanity. The protesters are considered opportunists and outside agitators who just want to destroy communities. They are in effect, portrayed as mindless violent people, rather than protesters who are so angry by the cycle that is described here, as well as the the reality they face everyday in their communities, that they see burning down a CVS and destroying police cars as the only option left. What else will end this madness? How can participants be considered violent for throwing rocks at a police force who is shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at them? Think of that disparity.
Even worse, people will show pictures and videos of distressed people rioting and write comments like “how can you expect to be treated like a human being if you act like animals” or “this ruins your whole argument”. Black people need to literally prove that they are human in American society, especially once they decide to actually start resisting the structural violence inflicted on their communities and literal coercive violence of the state. Meanwhile, media and popular media portrayals of white people rioting after winning sports championships or during “PumpkinFest”, are seen as rowdy teenagers who are just having fun. These riots usually create even more damage and face less police oppression.
This whole rant started after seeing the mainstream media cover the unrest in Baltimore, and pieces of shit on social media who spout their racist, ignorant opinions. There are people dying in the streets everyday and this is no time for fucking respectability politics.