From the serenity of my home office that doubles as my middle daughter’s bedroom, I write this at one of the most trying times this nation has ever faced. With COVID-19 testing the boundaries of our sanity as a whole, the racial tensions that have defined this country since its inception have come to a boiling point. The tragedy of George Floyd is no less common than it is tragic. The distinction now is, we have caught it on camera. To those watching Minneapolis burn to the ground, I say, do not tell my people to calm down.
For centuries, Black people have sworn by the non-violence mantra, even when violence was cast upon them like a toxic skin. While beating and raping us, hanging and murdering us, the system has urged us to be non-violent. The system has assured us justice is blind and that every man is equal. The system has repeatedly told us one thing and done another.
What happened when the Black people of Tulsa embraced white rage with Black love? Racist white men backed by every facet of law enforcement rode into Tulsa and burned it to the ground overnight. Those same men were the same men who contended Blacks were lazy and unfit to be Americans. When those Blacks became self-sufficient, white rage could not let them be.
We live in a society regulated by laws literally meant to keep Black men and Black people in a constant state of struggle. If this statement is hard to believe, explain the difference between white guys selling weed in dispensaries and a Black man selling it on the corner? The difference is the law. The law backs the white “entrepreneur” while crushing what it portrays as the “Black criminal.”
White people, intentionally or unintentionally, have destroyed the image of Black men. This is why a bearded white guy drinking beer on a motorcycle and toting a machine gun is not as unsettling an image as a Black man in a hoodie. White people have been so effective at destroying the Black image that white cops murder an unarmed Black man but the first thing released is the Black man’s past criminal history instead of details of the murder or the name of the officers involved. Yet white people defend the cops, and this is not their fault to a degree. Follow this example:
Charles is your next-door neighbor. You and he sometimes shoot pool. He’s a friendly guy who goes to church every Sunday. You’ve never seen him do anything wrong or heard anyone complain about him.
Alicia is the wife of Charles. He blacks her eye every month and takes her money. He has even threatened to kill her.
If I were to interview you about Charles and Alicia about Charles, you and he would have two totally distinctive stances. This is white people versus Black people concerning police and community relations. Cops are a part of the white community. They interact with them and protect them. They do not harass them. From my own experience and noting many others, in the Black community, cops harass Black men, they abuse Black men and the ones who don’t do those things don’t interact with the Black community in any positive manner. White people and Black people have two unique perspectives of cops. They are both legitimate.
Now, with the videos of victims like George Floyd blasting across the internet, it is harder for cops to deny their brutality. Some white deniers of police brutality have become believers. Others who are not believers are finding it harder to explain a cop pressing his knee so hard into the throat of an unarmed Black man that he kills him. They try to contend that civilians do not know what cops are thinking at a particular high-adrenaline moment. The videos show that many times, there is no threat to the cop. Most times, the cops are committing flat-out murder in these viral videos.
This is where we have come in this country. Minneapolis is facing riots with fire and chaos. Do not tell my people to calm down. Show my people that things will change.
*Jermaine Reed is a writer from Chicago with something to say. Sign up here to join his email list for more editorials and writing advice.