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When Ahmaud Arbery was killed by two white men who were not police, and it took approximately 74 days, a leaked cellphone video, and an online petition signed by thousands just to get an arrest, the black community was agitated and frustrated. Less than 20 days later in Minneapolis, George Floyd was murdered by a policeman who knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes while he was handcuffed, arms behind his back as he pleaded and cried out for his deceased mother. This was all captured on video for the world to witness. People lost it.
Protests in Minneapolis soon spread to other U.S. cities and even cities across the globe. An estimated 20,000 people marched in the streets of Paris on Thursday, and when I saw a video of that protest, I knew something was different. People are tired of seeing black people killed by police. The fact that it keeps happening over and over, the fact that many have been recorded on video for all to see, and still the officers are not held accountable for taking the lives of unarmed civilians, is surreal and ridiculous.
In 2015, when Dylann Roof, a white man who murdered nine black people during prayer service at a church in South Carolina, was arrested, not only was he not harmed by police when he was apprehended, police stopped and bought him something to eat from a fast-food restaurant. He was hungry.
This is racism. And millions of people across the globe agree.
Some might ask,“Why do they hate us?” But that is an oversimplified question that implies that these atrocities are based on emotion. Racism is not about hate, it is about maintaining power: financial power, political power, educational and information-based power, and cultural power.
When you don’t have the position or strength individually, that’s when you build bonds, bridges, and relationships with those in the same boat as you. Nothing can overcome a unified force. This is why we have seen people of all human families, nationalities, and backgrounds standing up and saying enough is enough.
And it’s going to take a lot more than voting to enact change. Yes, it is a piece to the puzzle, but it for damn sure is not the answer. There is no law we can implement that can regulate the mentality of white fragility – a mentality so fragile that it feels threatened by the simplest of human activities if they come from people with dark skin.
The Ahmaud Arbery case is now in the hands of its 4th District Attorney due to conflicts of interest and is now being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). The first prosecutor recused herself because she worked with the accused, Gregory McMichael, who was a former law enforcement officer. While the second district attorney from Waycross, Georgia, George Banhill, made it clear that he saw “no grounds for arrest.” The system and those in position allowed this murder to fall through the cracks.
“Voting is an introduction to the political process,” as my brother Supreme would say. It is an entry-level activity but it is not a full-fledged solution. No one is going to save us. No political leader is coming, there will be no new Dr. King. We are past the times of a charismatic figurehead who will speak for us.
The Civil Rights legend Ella Baker was once quoted as saying ”Strong people don’t need [a] strong leader.” Baker was not in favor of crowning a messianic leader, she was a proponent of community-based organizers who knew how to activate people around them. This is where we are today.
Average citizens have the greatest potential to shift the dynamics and bring into existence the changes we want to see. Social media and civil unrest was the real reason that arrests took place in both of the aforementioned cases. Elected officials did not step up and “do the right thing.” The public forced their hands.
Power if I were to break it down as an acronym, is to be in a Position Of Withstanding External Resistance. If no one is coming to our rescue, then it is clear we must rescue ourselves. Choose your position and play your position.
If you are a writer, bring awareness to social injustice and racial inequities. If you are an attorney, donate your services or sound legal advice for those who need it. If you are a painter, let your art provoke conversation and dialogue. If you are a teacher, share with your students the true history of why these unbalanced conditions exist.
Join local organizations that are committed to assisting the disenfranchised people of this nation or make your own. Educate yourself on the issues and get in position. Learn what has happened historically so that we are not fighting these same issues 52 years from now.
Do your part, but don’t co-opt the pain of black people in this country. Ahmaud Arberry was a black man, George Floyd was a black man, Breonna Taylor was a black woman. They were killed. We are not going to allow people to use ambiguous terms like “people of color” or “minority” to derail focus and hijack our struggle. We as a people have always been open to working with other communities and building coalitions, but this is our time.