Five Things White People Need to Know About Anti-Police Protests
The anti-police violence protests which have spread across the country and globe are being received with mixed reactions. Some white people seem to look at this as a moment for understanding and sympathy. On the other hand, others have acted callously by mocking the protests with the disgusting “George Floyd” challenge (people reenacting his death) or muttering simplistic phrases like “All Lives Matter.”
Here are a few important things to know:
This is not new
The current protests roiling the nation are just the latest iteration of a long-running drama. I’m almost 50 and the first one I can remember was the Rodney King riots. Before that were the race riots in the 1960s, which were often a reaction to state-sanctioned violence. There have been many similar incidents in American history.
America seems to be stuck in a vicious cycle. Police kill black people, police don’t get punished, African Americans protest, protests turn violent, things calm down. Rinse, repeat. If you want to stop the cycle, fix the problem. Hold the police accountable.
This is predictable
I recently watched an interview with Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, on VICE News. She said she wasn’t surprised at the protests. She called for accountability four years ago, when her son, a cafeteria worker, was killed during a traffic stop.
Castile was a licensed gun owner who notified the police officer of his weapon. He was reaching for his wallet when he was shot dead — in front of his girlfriend and her daughter. His girlfriend live-streamed the incident. Officer Jeronimo Ynez was acquitted.
More than 30 years ago, when Los Angeles went up in flames over the Rodney King riots, I wasn’t surprised either. If you listened to hip-hop (rap) music, you would have known there was simmering rage in the black community at police brutality. N.W.A.’s “F**k the Police,” was ultimately a political song because it was calling for social justice.
That song came out in 1988, the riots happened in 1992. That song is being played at the recent protests. Pay attention, people.
This won’t go away
My brother has two daughters and he repeatedly says that he’s considering leaving the United States and finding someplace safer to raise his children. But we’re Nigerian immigrants, we have resources and contacts to find new places to move to. I’ve immigrated twice and reinvented my life several times.
However several African Americans are now sharing the same sentiments as my brother and are considering life outside the United States for the safety of their children. Black people make up 12 percent of the United States population (40 million people.) Much of the population has been here for at least six generations. This is their home. They’re not going away, and they shouldn’t have to leave their homeland to find safety.
More than 30 years ago, when Los Angeles went up in flames over the Rodney King riots, I wasn’t surprised either. If you listened to hip-hop (rap) music, you would have known there was simmering rage in the black community at police brutality. N.W.A.’s “F**k the Police,” was ultimately a political song because it was calling for social justice. That song came out in 1988, the riots happened in 1992. That song is being played at the recent protests. Pay attention, people.
This is your problem too
There have been more than 270 attacks on journalists from police forces. There have also been several incidents of citizens arrested by men in plainclothes who refuse to provide their identity. It’s pretty obvious that law enforcement is out of control and reveling in their lack of accountability.
But this also affects you in suburbia. When police officers are not held accountable, they think they’re untouchable. Do you really want a cop serving on your local police department who’s gotten away with murder? Currently, there is no federal system that tracks police misdeeds. So a cop fired from one department can apply for another job in a different city.
Officer Derek Chauvin had a long history of complaints and shootings. If police officers aren’t held accountable, don’t be surprised if they turn their guns on you one day.
Civil unrest works
No one likes images of burning cars, bloodied faces and militarized police on their TVs. But people take to those measures because the system is not working, or it’s working at a glacial pace. There used to be a time when black people were murdered by the police and nothing happened. Now they’re at least getting arrested, but officers are often set free.
In addition, if it wasn’t for mass protests, Ahmaud Arbery’s alleged killers wouldn’t have been indicted, and the four Minnesota cops wouldn’t have been charged. But this indicates a breakdown in the judicial and legislative systems. People shouldn’t have to take to the streets for both of those systems to function properly.
There are major problems in this country’s legislative and judicial system. And this country still does not provide African Americans, and other People of Color, with full human rights. If we don’t fix those problems, we’ll remain stuck in this time loop.