So, in the words of Morris W. O’Kelley, it is “That Time in America” again.
Freddy Gray died in Baltimore on April 19th, one week after an arrest and police transport experience that somehow left him comatose, brain swollen, with three broken vertebrae and an 80% spinal cord severance. Involved officers were suspended. The Justice Department opened an investigation.
Peaceful protests took place for several days without much media attention. Then a small percentage of the protesters turned to violence and property destruction–with, by the way, the active collusion of baseball fans and poor police planning.
And then the finger-wagging commenced. Which brings me back to O’Kelley:
This is that time in America when we stand around and ask “why would ‘they’ burn down ‘their’ community?” This is that time in America when we simultaneously act as if the precipitating event or parallel history are neither relevant nor worthy of addressing. . . . This is that time in America when once again, African-Americans are expected to play by rules not followed by others while also having the original issues ignored.
Yup. It’s that time again. Not that “that time” ever really went away in the first place.
At some level, I no more know what to say in this “that time” than I did during some previous “that times”–including the unjustly under-acknowledged deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. And I definitely apologize to anyone who knows the unmasked me over in Facebook, because a lot of what I say and link tonight is duplicative of what I’ve been saying in that other forum.
But I have to keep trying.
Not just because I am so full of feelings–outrage, despair, that they must have voice, however imperfectly phrased. (Though that’s true.)
And not at all because I believe I have smarter or more insightful things to say than some of the sources I’ve been reading these past few days. (Cos I am not party to that level of hubris. In addition to O’Kelley, please check out the ever-brilliant Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the one-woman truth parade that Rebecca Solnit has been marching on her Facebook wall.)
Just, in the months since I wrote that “Echoes and Mirrors” post, I have become increasingly sure that, however imperfectly, angrily, shrilly I may speak at these moments, it is still my duty to try and speak. And speak and speak again.
White people should recognize that the best way to be good allies is to go work among their own people (white people) to create more allies. Too frequently, white allies think we are asking them to come into our communities to affirm our account of racist acts and structures. What we are really asking is for them to 1) affirm that account boldly among other white people; and 2) use their privilege to confront racial injustices when they see them happening, whether in the grocery store or the boardroom.
So let me just speak briefly about the institutionalized racism that is displayed when property destruction after the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl victory is depicted as “over-exuberant fans” and property destruction during these political protests is called a “riot.” (Mic.com.)
Let me allude to the institutionalized racism of a media machine that ignored DAYS of peaceful protest by some 10,000 people only then to hype up the actions of 100 people (again, fewer “bad apples” than got involved after the Ravens’ victory).
Let me name the uncomfortable racism being exhibited if you have chosen to stay silent about Freddie Gray’s death (and Trayvon Martin’s, and Michael Brown’s, and Walter Scott, and Justus Howell, and Philip White, and Eric Harris, and, and, and…) and about the years of police brutality in B’more ($5.7 million in violence settlements in the last 3 years) but now think it’s important to get all finger-waggy and judgey about the property damage in these “riots.” If your response is that you didn’t actually know about Baltimore’s troubled history of police violence, then say hello to your racial privilege. Ignorance is its own sort of luxury, sometimes.
And let me state how entirely fucking sick and tired I am of the riot-shaming.