In 2009, an Army major went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood military base and killed 14 people and injured dozens more. If we criticize this soldier and call for his arrest, does that mean we don’t support the troops? Of course not. And no one should say we don’t support law enforcement because we say fuck Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd and for each of the 18+ complaints filed against him before that.
As long as people in this country find more fault in Colin Kaepernick kneeling on a football field than a thug cop kneeling on a man’s neck, officers will largely avoid consequences for killing people of color like George Floyd, Breona Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Samuel Dubose, Terence Crutcher, Tony McDade and Freddie Gray. Call it racist, stupid, unevolved or all of the above, but this type of backward ass bullshit leads people to vandalize a mural paying tribute to George Floyd less than a day after it went up.
Floyd, who built a reputation for Christian ministry work in Houston, lost his life over an alleged fake $20 bill at a grocery store. Chauvin’s wife, however, only had collection letters when she was charged with writing a bad check.
“Racism isn’t getting worse,” said actor Will Smith. “It’s getting filmed.” Our ubiquitous access to online platforms now allows a free flow of instant communication and social proof that we never had during past instances of alleged brutality. It’s why the officers would have likely avoided any consequences for Floyd’s death had it not been recorded. One wonders how many needless deaths went unaddressed simply because there wasn’t an iPhone around. Had the phone footage not gone public, would we even know Ahmaud Arbery’s name?
Already exhausted by stay-at-home orders, America is staring down the potential for economic collapse with 40 million people unemployed during a global pandemic that an inept administration continues to mismanage. What the fuck did we think was going to happen when a white policeman once again kills an innocent person of color? We support peaceful protests, not violence, vandalism or looting, but before you judge, remember that the American Revolution started with an act of vandalism against the state that gave the Tea Party movement its name. The Bush Administration even said “the lawlessness and looting in Baghdad… is a natural consequence of the transition from a dictatorship to a free country.”
Without the protests, is Chauvin even charged? Without the fear of renewed protests, is there any chance he doesn’t walk? And whose fault is that? It’s not the protestors’.
When people deface or loot small businesses, it’s unfair to business owners and hurts public sympathy for the cause, but we should empathize with the frustration that boils over again and again as we wait for action and real change. And when cities do act, they experience pushback from lobbyists with vested financial interests and an increasingly politicized police force. Consider the city where Floyd died. The lieutenant who heads the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis told Fox News that such reforms are “demagoguery,” yet he’s a Trump rally speaker who reportedly made racist comments and wore a White Power patch on his motorcycle jacket.
In a statement, President Obama highlighted what the news media didn’t: “The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring.” While you can justifiably disapprove of the looting and vandalism by a small number of participants, that shouldn’t move you more than the systemic racism, cover-ups, asset seizures, BS autopsy reports and war-like militarization that exist in law enforcement. Even though a rotten cop lit the fuse, the protests are actually about the institutional rot inside the system that empowers bad actors and makes good officers complicit by having to remain silent. The protestors are merely punching back at the authoritarian bullies who drew first blood with immunity.
Instead of judging people whose shoes you’ve never worn, ask yourself why we haven’t had major reform already? When officers arrest journalists, drive through crowds and inflict more physical pain, they’re asking for compliance, not civility, when what we really need is change. If we direct our disapproval at the symptoms, we never address the cause.
Positive change is born from chaos, and we hope that is where all this chaos is headed.
Some already tagged Chauvin’s driveway with their thoughts on the matter, but artists have used their medium for years to speak out against police violence. Here are some examples.
Credit for this image and bottom two inlines above: @michaeldantuono
Credit for this image and the top inline above: @the.daily.don
Credit: obeygiant with Shepard Fairey writing, “Let’s take a deep breath, channel our outrage that George Floyd and Eric Garner couldn’t breathe, and realize that though street protest is a powerful, visceral, way to participate in democracy, voting is essential to change things. Politicians respond to pressure at the polls.”
Credit: @vesselsartstudio (this is the mural that was defaced, which the artist has since redone)
“It is shameful, I feel, that we even have to make this point. That it is necessary to say, even once, that Black lives matter is itself a testimony to the racism of our society. It ought to be obvious that Black lives matter, that Black people matter, and by implication, that their murder, especially at the hands of the state, cannot go unanswered. And yet it is not obvious. In the context of the legal system, the recent evidence suggests that it is not even true.” — Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America.