Thursday, June 4, 2020

To Lafayette Square from Tiananmen Square

If you're more bothered by images and video of riots and looting than you are by the knowledge that another black man, George Floyd, was indefensibly murdered by a cop, then you're part of the problem.

That's not to say that you're a racist. But watching a man die slowly under another man's knee, for allegedly passing a counterfeit bill?!? And knowing that the murderer and his accomplices were not immediately arrested? That should outrage you more.

That's also not to say that you can't be outraged by both. I'm not a fan of either violence or looting. I feel for the small business owners whose shops were attacked, and for cops who took a knee with protesters only to have things thrown at them, and for anyone injured who wasn't on the offensive. It is more than possible to hate racism and discrimination and intolerance, and also support police who do an incredibly difficult job without abusing or murdering people. But we go through this again and again and again, while more and more black men and women and children are killed. There are thoughts and prayers, some harsh words are spoken, there's a general murmur of agreement that this can't go on... and then it goes on. Of course people are frustrated. Of course that boils over. It's ugly, but it's a symptom, and we're not treating the ailment.

And of course, embedded in the protesters, there could well be third-party instigators, from the far left or the far right, or both, with their own agendas. None of that takes away from the pain and the anguish, none of that changes the fact that black Americans are not treated equally to white Americans. Yes, white Americans are harassed, and beaten, and killed by cops, too, but it's not proportional and it's not systemic.

I don't think black lives are "more important" than white lives, nor do I think that white ones are more important than black, or any other color. I don't think all, or even most, cops are bad people. I don't think all, or even most, Americans want to see this cycle repeat itself endlessly, but I do think there's a lot of inertia that needs to be overcome for real change to happen.

Would it be OK if, instead of George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or Breonna Taylor (or Michael Brown, or Eric Garner, or Tamir Rice, or Freddie Gray, or Atatiana Jefferson, or David McAtee, or Manuel Ellis, or...), it had been you or your parent or sibling or child or partner? And next time, your friend? And the time after that, your cousin? It's easy to say that "It's a shame, and it never should have happened, but it's not my problem."

But it is. If we all intend to live here, in this country that promises "equal justice under law," we can't sit quietly by while the civil liberties we claim for ourselves are ripped away from our fellow citizens. No one is free until we are all free.

The Chinese government cracked down on its protesting citizens at Tiananmen Square 31 years ago today. Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran are also notorious for tolerating little to no dissent from their own people. It doesn't work that way in this country, at least not yet. As long as our military and our police forces answer to civilian leaders, who answer to us, we need to keep the pressure on and make our voices heard. And thank you to those around the world who are raising your voices for equality in America, too.

It's not too much to ask, we shouldn't even have to ask, for black lives to matter.

No comments:

Post a Comment