Just when you think things are looking grim in the US, a cop decides it’s OK to kneel on an African-American man’s neck until he dies. In fact, he cares so little that it doesn’t even bother him that people are filming him doing it. Black lives just don’t matter to him. The resulting protests, and riots, have been doing on for almost a week now.
Once the rioting starts, so does the tut-tutting, with people wondering why ‘they’ don’t protest peacefully, forgetting the abuse Colin Kaepernick got when he took a knee during the national anthem before NFL games. TIME Magazine has a piece in which a local activist points out that Minneapolis has been a powder keg for a while, and has shown no interest in responding to protests around previous killings or reforming their police force or doing anything about inequality in the city.
When the Black Lives Matter movement took hold nationally after Eric Garner and Michael Brown died at the hands of police in 2014, solidarity protests also broke out in Minnesota. Demonstrators occupied the Mall of America, a major regional attraction, and shut down major highways. The next year, protests erupted again after police shot and killed Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, in North Minneapolis, and in 2016, after a police officer shot and killed Philando Castile, whose girlfriend live streamed part of the incident in a Minneapolis suburb. In both cases, there was no police conviction.
Former NBA star, Karim Abdul-Jabar has a powerful piece in the Los Angeles Times outlining what it means to be African-American in the US today.
I don’t want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere.
Barack Obama wrote a well-reasoned piece exhorting people to show up at the voting booth and vote for change, particularly at local elections where there is more oversight of individual police departments and judges, which makes perfect sense. However, as Professor Ibram X. Kendi, director at the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University points out, the first response of even progressive officials is often to protect the police:
It’s one thing to say that one of the ways in which you should channel your anger is through seeking to vote into power antiracist elected officials. And it’s yet another thing to say that in reaction to people who are protesting or demonstrating against police violence in Atlanta. And instead of Atlanta’s officials immediately making policy changes that have the capacity to reduce police violence against people, instead, those Atlanta officials make immediate policy changes to stem violence against property and police and then simultaneously say to those very people, “Well, you need to channel your energy into electing people like me.” But those very people who are elected officials actually have the power in that moment to make changes. And they’re not doing it. So you can’t simultaneously not use your power to make change and then tell people, “You should be electing people like me and then change will come.”