First of all, rest in peace to all the people killed & harmed (physically and mentally) by police brutality worldwide. Its sad when the people paid and trusted to protect us chose not to…
I specifically wanted to blog about the Baltimore Uprising (or riots) and indirectly the London riots years back – both of which started as peaceful protests against the unlawful killing of young black men before some protesters turned to ‘violence‘. And I find myself back where I was when the riots were happening in London: I know peaceful protests aren’t enough but will the burning buildings solve anything?
Since the death of Mike Brown last year in August I’ve been keeping track of all the peaceful protests going on in the States and the occasional ones in the UK but the issue is – the people who matter, the people who can actually change things haven’t, they make no comment until the protest is on their front door, until their favourite cafe is burnt down. And it’s not like these protests are a new phenomenon, everytime a unarmed poc (person of colour) is killed by police people get out and protest, its been happening for decades at least.
It is so easy and simplistic to say rioting doesn’t solve anything and to a point that’s true. Businesses who have no relation to law enforcement and their errors suffer, people lose their source of income and their pride and joy but as a Tumblr helpfully pointed out. Most of these businesses have insurance, someone can come help them patch things up again when this finishes. But those kids who died, and most of them are young and innocent, theres no insurance policy to bring them back. They’re gone for good and no amount of money will end the pain their families.
When the Gaza conflict was happening over summer I put a Ghandi quote on my Instagram and it read ‘an eye for an eye only left the world blind‘ but I realise now its far more complex. This isn’t a fair ‘trade’ because police are killing poc – that’s their input – and in exchange the people of colour who live are voicing their dissent sometimes as peaceful protest and other times through burning buildings – thats our input. This isn’t an eye for an eye though, this is my heart for your pinky finger. Sure it’s nice having all five fingers but you can make life work without one, and with all the new tech it’ll be like you never lost a finger, but I can’t function without my heart. Once you take that, you take everything from me.
And what hurts more is the bias in the way it’s reported by most media outlets. One US news channel had the nerve to call Walter Scott a suspect when a more appropriate term would be victim. Even in death his name is tarnished, his character demonised and if thats not disgusting I don’t know what is.
Channel 4 did a report recently, about the countless poc who are now being cleared of crimes they never committed 20/30 years ago. After 20 years of their lives are stolen, by a racist system which preferred easy scapegoats to real criminals, they’re released into this world. And I cynically thought to myself as I watched them leave the prison that maybe they were better off in there. Because these days, there is no trial – fair or not. There’s instant execution. There is the ‘he reached for my gun/into his pocket and I felt intimidated‘ excuse which lets murderers walk free.
And now I’ve mentioned it, have you ever noticed that it’s always the same story? A person of colour is (nearly) always minding their business or committing a minor offence e.g. jaywalking when they’re stopped by police. Then according to the officer there is a struggle and the officer felt his only option was to fire his weapon several times. However eye witness accounts mention no scuffle, it’s often ‘s/he tried to get away/explain when they heard shots fired. Then the bleeding body is handcuffed then left, no medical assistance called.
What hurts more is the fact that when white people pull stunts like pointing a real, loaded gun at the police; committing armed robbery; assembling and denoting a bomb at a marathon; or crash a car into the white house (x). They’re taken alive into police custody. ALIVE. The only exception on my list being the Boston bombers of which one is dead and the other on trial. For heavens sake Tamir Rice (12) was shot dead for playing with a TOY gun. The police didn’t even try to talk to him, they got out of their cars and seconds later shot dead a baby.
To white people reading this, realise how privileged you are because your lives are respected, oh how I envy you. But also think back to how you felt on 9/11 or 7/7, during the Charlie Hebo attacks, how you felt when ISIS beheaded Brits and Americans etc. The pain, and disgust you felt. How all your governments were quick to say they’d crush these terrorists, eradicate them from the earth. And do two things.
When you hear (another) poc was killed by police, think back to that pain then imagine how it must feel to feel that pain weekly. Secondly, don’t preach ‘violence never solved anything‘ when your elected leaders are quick to jump to violence in the form of airstrikes etc. I’m sorry when you look at European and American history it is violent – there hasn’t been a century that has been peaceful to date. Tell me when you learnt violence never solved things, pre or post slavery, the two world wars, the war in Iraq? I’m not saying everywhere else is/was rosy, but those places aren’t preaching non-violence to protestors.
I don’t know what the Baltimore Uprising will achieve, if anything. But I do know the peaceful stuff wasn’t enough and if this is what it takes for people to listen then so be it. Because if we can sort this out we won’t have to mourn brothers and sisters weekly and cities won’t have to rebuild themselves.
I’ll leave you with a link (x) to a really good analogy about this whole peaceful vs violent debate and the quote and song that inspired this post. Stay Woke. Stay Alive.
You took my son from me. Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to stay in school and graduate? You know how many black men graduate? Not many. Because you bring them down to this type of level, where they feel like they don’t got nothing to live for anyway. ‘They’re going to try and take me out anyway’.
Lesley McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown
My way of remembering the victims of police brutality is putting some in this post. There are sadly thousands that aren’t in this post, and this isn’t even including the LGBTQA people killed by police brutality. To read their stories (x)