Eight minutes and 46 seconds. Sit still for eight minutes and 46 seconds. Now, imagine being pressed against the ground and having a knee on your neck for that period of time without the ability to get the oxygen you need to survive. Eight minutes and 46 seconds. How long does it take before you realize that your life is over? I bet it doesn’t take long.
I could only watch the killing of George Floyd on video for about the first 10 seconds and then I had to go to the bathroom to throw up.
This country’s independence — that freedom — it’s relative and does not apply to everyone. Black people from Africa and their offspring were enslaved, then once “freed,” were thrown into the legal system of incarceration, aka modern-day slavery.
When slavery was abolished, a system of social and economic equality and equity was never established. The system that does exist was and has always been designed to oppress. There has never been equality or equity in this country — EVER — even as this land was “founded.”
The establishment of the Electoral College gave the lower voting population states of the South the ability to have power as a result of its enslaved population (each enslaved individual counted as 3/5 of a person) because 40% of the population of those living in the South were enslaved Africans (or the children of).
Once those enslaved were “free,” many were criminalized for petty crimes, giving those in need access to free labor through the prison system, yet again, to rebuild the South after the Civil War.
The system of oppression has included and includes today: education, the prison industrial complex, policing, economics, voting, water, family planning, food accessibility, housing, health care, transportation, mental health, jobs, etc. — all built on the foundation of systemic racism.
Earlier this year, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors unanimously declared racism as a public health crisis. “America is blessed with incredible diversity that makes us unique and is one of our strengths,” said Third District Riverside County Supervisor Chuck Washington, who represents the Idyllwild area. “But systemic racism in our country continues to limit opportunities for communities of color in ways that damage physical and mental health even across generations. The time to address health disparities is long overdue.”
Segregation was another movement of oppression.
Enter the period of law and order during the Richard Nixon presidency that some call the backlash of the civil rights movement. Then, the war on drugs introduced by President Ronald Reagan was followed by the 1990s crime bill under President Bill Clinton. Fear was used to perpetuate racism.
The U.S. has about 5% of the world’s population. However, the “land of the free” houses approximately a quarter of the world’s prison population, at about 2.3 million prisoners. Blacks are disproportionately incarcerated.
In the 2016 book “Stamped From the Beginning,” Ibram X. Kendi writes: “If Black people make up 13.2% of the of the U.S. population, then Black people should make up somewhere close to 13% of Americans killed by the police, somewhere close to 13% of the Americans sitting in prisons, somewhere close to owning 13% of U.S. wealth. But today, the United States remains nowhere close to racial parity. African Americans own 2.7% of the nation’s wealth, and make up 40% of the incarcerated population. These are racial disparities and racial disparities are older than the life of the United States.” Kendi also writes that “Young Black males were 21 more times likely to be killed by police than their White counterparts between 2010 and 2012, according to federal statistics.”
John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s domestic policy chief, said: “You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
If we are going to get to a point of actually living in the land of the free, we have to restructure the entire system as we know it — and we should.
There are people who think that because this country had a Black president that we are living post-racism. With a Black man in office, who is half White, this country saw an increase in the those joining White Supremacist groups, a continued killing of unarmed Black men and women by law enforcement, an economic system that feeds the rich, a disproportionate number of people of color impacted by health issues and the list goes on.
Ron Finley, the Gangsta Gardener and the founder of the Ron Finley Project bringing culture and community together, always reminds us, we do not have a food problem; we have a distribution problem and that is by design.
With the killing of George Floyd, there is now conversation about defunding law enforcement. But what does that mean? It means reallocating resources to programs and non-racist structures that work to prevent and solve the injustices of social and economic racism as opposed to perpetuating it.
What does it look like: Instead of law enforcement responding to 5150 calls (when a person with a mental health problem is posing a danger to him/herself or others), a mental health professional responds. It means jobs for those who were recently incarcerated, farmers markets everywhere, affordable and accessible education, accessible and free health care, jobs programs, affordable and quality housing, and a system that pays a respectable wage. These are just some of the ways policies can change and taxpayer money can be reallocated.
If human beings have the ability to provide for themselves and/or families by making a respectable wage that does not require more than one full-time job, have access to healthy food/hygiene and cleaning products, etc., have access to quality education without going into a lifetime of debt, have access to non-indoctrinated K-12 education that does not occur in a dilapidated building, have access to clean water, live in quality housing, have access to mental health treatment and creative outlets, have the ability to afford extracurricular activities for one’s children; how often do you think law enforcement would need to intervene in one’s daily life?
If you do not know the true history of policing in this country, I recommend researching that.
But what about the people who are afraid of a decreased police presence? Well, how often do communities that have access to everything I mentioned above need to call law enforcement?
The protests have been a point of contention with looting and increased physical violence on the part of law enforcement. But the origin of these protests are about the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a White police officer — the constant and consistent killing of Black men, boys and women by law enforcement even after the killing of Floyd. Protests aren’t meant to be convenient!
Stop killing unarmed Black people! Stop! And if voting changed the way this country functioned, we would have seen the change. I am not saying don’t vote but change is going to have to encompass more than just voting. How many times has just voting corrected social injustice?
“His murder is another reason why we rise up … and why Black people will continue to rise up,” said Rena Police. “Since Floyd’s murder, there have been other murders of unarmed Black men in the street by the police. We protest for George Floyd and for all the other victims of police brutalities. We protest to prevent the police killings of other black people. Stop killing us. Because of the video of George Floyd, the world became involved. Black people have been involved and as long as our skin is Black, we are involved.”
So what is the “proper” way to protest? Several years ago, people were up in arms about taking a knee during the national anthem saying, “You can’t protest that way.” You know a segment of that song was removed, right? Do you know why?
People from all over this country and the world are joining the protests in solidarity, and for the first time, a large population of non-Blacks are joining and standing their ground for what is right.
So what is the origin of the term looting? A Time Magazine story titled “How American Power Dynamics Have Shaped Perceptions of Looting, From the Boston Tea Party to Today” explains: “In its early days in the English language, the word — which, in the 1700s, crossed over from a Hindi term, ‘lut,’ used in reference to prizes plundered from wartime enemies — didn’t always come with the connotations of lawlessness it has today. It was a sort of military slang at first, used by soldiers during the British rule of India, and spread during mid-19th century conflicts. Eventually it moved beyond the realm of war, applied, for example, to artistic and historical artifacts plundered by Western nations from other countries.”
How about the recent looting of taxpayer money to fund capitalism? Is that looting OK or should it be placed in the same category as the looting by protesters? I’m not saying go loot, but understanding the origins of the term, how it has shifted and how it is being done to communities and the citizens of this country is important to deconstruct. More importantly, what about the looting of the Black community and its people?
We hear that there are “a few bad apples” in law enforcement. However, with video footage from across the country and attacks on not only peaceful protesters and arrest of Black business owners trying to protect their businesses, but journalists being shot with rubber bullets and arrested, there are people who could make a strong case that either the “bad apples” have been working some severe overtime lately or this is truly the culture of law enforcement, and due to smartphones and body cameras, actions are revealed to the masses for the first time. The two large party presidential candidates are for increasing law enforcement.
And what ignited all of this? The people decided that the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by law enforcement after the killing of numerous others, even in the middle of a pandemic, was enough.
The pandemic that caused a government-induced economic shut down with little access to funds and small businesses that had to take out loans and apply for grants with an astronomical amount of paperwork and waiting period when big corporations were able to just get what they need from the Treasury whenever they needed it. Again, the system is by design. Oh, and just a reminder — that was the work of both Democrats and Republicans.
Why do people continue to support this system? The system is trying to replace one candidate with another candidate who is fundamentally no different.
I will tell you this: George Floyd has changed the world and Black Lives DO Matter.