BLACK LIVES MATTER (still, again, and ALWAYS)
Let me first say this: BLACK LIVES MATTER. They mattered two weeks ago before we knew of the murder of George Floyd. They matter in this current moment of pain and heartbreak. And they will matter a few weeks from now when most white people will return to their cocoons of complacency, "civility" will be restored, and it's no longer "trendy" to post about antiracism on social media.
First, the honest truth is we will not experience any semblance of lasting peace until the descendants of the human traffickers, rapists, and murderous masterminds of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (and I use that language not to inflame, but to intentionally call attention to actual realities of slavery), ie today's white people, have fully accounted for—monetarily, culturally, spiritually—the original sin of slavery and there are practical reparations made to the descendants of the survivors of that wretched institution. Point blank, period, beginning and end of conversation. Until there is governmental action that is taken towards that end, it will be up to us individual white people to begin cultivating the urgency and action in our own communities and institutions to dismantle and destroy the modern day remnants of slavery's legacy in our cities and towns, in our families, and in our own hearts.
Second, it's profoundly troubling and disingenuous for everyone, but especially white mainstream media, to keep calling for "peace." On even the most "liberal" mainstream news, anchors are clutching their pearls (quite literally) at destruction, fires, and looting taking place in cities across the country. Instigators, agitators, and entitled, opportunistic white anarchists aside (indeed, all forms of destruction by those parties must be condemned in the highest possible forms), the truth is—"peace" was the problem! If setting fires and destroying property of Targets, Gucci stores, and Lulu Lemons makes you uncomfortable, the question you should be asking yourself is: have you felt this same "discomfort" towards the looting and pillaging of actual Black human people and communities by law enforcement that occurs every day? Did you even see it? And had you even heard their names—Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey, Philando Castile, and too many more—or did you just awaken to the issue with George Floyd's murder, perhaps the most obviously egregious in a string of obviously egregious police murders of innocent Black citizens?
Third, cut it with the "bad apples" talk. These are bad apples which have fallen from a bad apple tree, planted in bad soil. It's not a question of "good/not racist" cops and "bad/racist" ones, just as there are no "good/not racist" white people and "bad/racist" white people. The racism white people have internalized is engrained in us, and given any range of stressor (from Black people leading a protest against police brutality to a Black person asking us politely to leash our dog)—or no stressor at all!—it can come out. We are all like loaded guns, ready to fire at any time, and instead of discussing how to toss out the "bad ones," we need to be talking about out how to take our fingers off of our collective triggers.
Fourth, remember this moment. This moment is not the work. This moment is reactive. It is the improvised scrambling for a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood gushing from the gaping wound which we repeatedly refused to treat. The "work" will come in a few weeks, after all of the hashtags and cameras have disappeared. When things go back to "normal" and we are full of "peace" again. But remember THIS moment (cling to it!), because these emotions—this urgency, helplessness, guilt, fear, and anger—are what will drive the work then. Don't let them fade! Recalling our emotions of this present moment will limit the amount to which we allow ourselves to drift back into the intoxication of our whiteness, the coma of our Caucasiality.
Lastly, and I wanted to close with this—while all white people must be engaged in this work, white people that have direct and meaningful connections to Black communities (ie musicians that perform and borrow from R&B/soul/gospel music) must be the first to stand for justice. And further, for any white artist that is involved with or participates in those genres and communities, social and anti-racist activism should be currency for participation. Instead of seeing our participation in those spaces as validation of our "woke-ness", our "woke-ness"—through actual antiracist action—should validate our participation in those spaces. The stakes are too high, the expectations have been too low, and our track record is too poor to accept anything else. To not engage with our own white communities about our internalized racism; to not be proactive about uplifting Black businesses, causes, and people; and to not address how racism and prejudices manifest in our own hearts and actions is to perpetuate our disturbingly common and painful legacy of ignorance, appropriation, and colonization.