I have never once felt in danger because of who I am. I have never once felt unsafe or that I did not have the right or ability to be anywhere I wanted to be. I have never once looked at a cop behind me and feared for my life. I cannot begin to understand, but the best I can do is to understand that I will never understand. No, we have failed. Not just over the last 9 days, not over the last few years, but over the past 400 years. The question is not, “Where did we go wrong?”, it’s “What have we even done right?”.
First, I want to talk about the first line of defense: our education system. Coming from Long Island, I can sum up everything that I have learned about the black community in all of my history classes in about two sentences. The slave trade was bad (but we did it for 200 years!), the Civil War was fought over slavery (after which we freed the slaves and then proceeded to remove every single right that “free” people should have), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was the first time black people have been shown an iota of respect by this nation’s leadership (and that’s where it starts and ends, as nothing more than an iota), and in 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. That’s it. As it turns out, 18 years in the American education system gets you the bare minimum when it comes to black people and their history – as if this entire country wasn’t founded off of the backs of slaves – and you get maybe 2 weeks total worth of education. That needs to change. I’ve learned more about the history of African-Americans over the last 9 days than I did in 18 years through a publicly funded education system. Educate the youth, make them see, make them understand.
Our policymakers have failed to adequately protect the rights of black people for far too long. They’ve gotten away with giving small bites of the apple to black people in this country. The way the right has treated people of color is abhorrent, but do not let that excuse the left. Democrats have hid behind the curtain of “being the good guy” for too long. Propping up minorities and using them for votes is violently disgusting behavior. If they really were the party that they claimed to be, any of the past blue controlled White Houses and Congress’ could have passed bills to fix at least some of the problems facing black people in this country. But no, they are used for votes and nothing more. You wonder why people have flocked to Bernie and are rejecting your centrist views? Look no further than the riots that are taking place in our cities. This is on you, too, and don’t pretend that it’s not. Laws have been in place for decades to minimize the rights of black people in this country – go repeal them. March in the streets. Be an ally, then you get our trust back.
Finally, I want to address the way that black people are treated by law enforcement. I won’t say much, because all you have to do is look outside your window and see what they have done. How they have systematically tried, time and time again, to break the will and the spirit of black people in this country. And how every time, it hasn’t worked. It’s only built up, and hibernated, and grown. And now we sit at the crux of what has been – decade after decade, generation after generation – a broken system. You don’t need the statistics from me to paint the picture for you. To say that it needs revamping is the understatement of a generation. This is not a few bad apples, if it were we wouldn’t be doing this again. This is about more than just murder, it is a system that has been specifically designed to put black people at a disadvantage and incarcerates them without a second thought. No, it is not a few bad apples, this is what happens when the root of the apple tree is infected and rotted to the core. Maybe you need to burn the old tree down and plant a new one.
This has been a long time coming. This is not simply a reaction to one or two people’s deaths – this is 400 years of oppression coming to the fore and they know it. That’s what scares them. That’s why they arrested those four officers that murdered George Floyd. To make it stop, because those arrests can be a stopgap to end protests and anger. They’re afraid that this is something larger, because it is. No more. George Floyd is not a stopgap. Breonna Taylor is not a stopgap. Trayvon Martin is not a stopgap. It ends now. Stop saying that they “lost their lives”, because they didn’t. They had their lives ripped away from them by a system that has never once given them a chance. Black people have every right to be angry, and to protest, and to demand that for the first time in the history of this nation to be treated as equals.
If you’re walking home from school, and every single day a kid kicks you and beats you up, only to give you a pack of ice afterwards to treat your broken ribs and shattered teeth, you wouldn’t call that kid your friend just because he treats you with a shred of decency after whooping on you and beating you for days, weeks, years. That’s a bully. And the United States has been bullying black people since before its inception. Every day. Non-stop. It’s time to fight back.
Not so fun when the rabbit has the gun.