The Weary Value of Black Life
Incidents of police brutality have reached an epidemic level of public visibility. Within the last few weeks, we have been mourning the loss of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. The riots we are watching unfold in cities across the United States is a result of penned-up rage. It’s a result of being fed up. It’s a result of being so damn tired.
Like other similar incidents, George Floyd’s murder was caught on video. The agony of watching police officer Derek Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes, and ultimately kill him was unbearable. He begged for his life. He pleaded for help. He called out to his mother who’s passed away.
We are supposed to believe if the evidence is right there on video, there would be no question – beyond a shadow of a doubt – about the guilt of the police and their prosecution for murder. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Police officers who kill Black people seem above the law and rarely face prosecution. None of the officers in the deaths of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, or Philando Castile are in jail.
Ahmaud Arbery was running. Breonna Taylor was in the privacy of her own home. Their lives were senselessly taken and we are left, yet again, to ask “Why?” Never any answers. But we already know the truth: Hate.
When you try to put faith in a system; a system that you know is not designed for you, when you constantly seek justice by lawful means and you can’t get it, you begin to take the law into your own hands. This is where we are.
After Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, this epidemic of police violence against Black people in the U.S. made global attention. Just a month earlier, Eric Garner was killed by white officers in New York City.
What is true in this moment is that we are seeing the centuries-old disease of white supremacy in America. Black activists, writers, and organizers cannot solve this problem. It is not a problem that Black people can or should solve. It is not our responsibility to take this burden. Racism is not our problem.
This is what Colin Kapernick kneeled for. Instead, the entire NFL rejected him, and he suffered attacks from Donald Trump. He is blacklisted for trying to bring awareness.
The conversation around racial injustice may have improved – more talking, more meeting, more organizing. However, nothing is being accomplished. We march, we protest, and then what? Even in the midst of a global pandemic, the number of Black people shot and killed by on-duty police officers has kept pace with recent years. Unarmed Black Americans are shot and killed by police at a rate triple their share of the entire population.
There is eminent danger in every direction we turn. We are disproportionately dying from COVID-19, we are a disproportionate number of essential workers, we are a disproportionate amount of the people police are arresting due to social distancing rules, we are obviously a disproportionate amount of people being killed by police, we are also being killed by vigilantes and threatened by white liberal women walking their dogs in Central Park.
It’s an experience that threatens us daily. An experience that we have become accustomed to. Every which way we turn, there is potential of unexpected danger or death. Where do we go from here?