“I’m not black, but there’s a whole lot of times I wish I could say that I’m not white.” — Frank Zappa, 1966
White supremacy is an ugly cornerstone of American history, from the shameful legacy of slavery to the Trail of Tears to the anti-Chinese hysteria of the late 19th Century to the Japanese internment camps to present-day Islamophobia. Refusing to acknowledge our country’s history of racism, either willfully or by skating around the issue with platitudes like “racism is dead” or “I don’t see color,” merely upholds the divide.
This country should never have practiced slavery. This country could have been founded in a spirit of cooperation between the European settlers and Native Americans. Instead, the settler-colonialists who established the United States opted for a social structure built on slavery, land theft, and genocide.
America’s body count is literally uncountable. Nothing will erase history, but we can author a better future.
A hundred years ago, they used to sell postcards of lynchings. Now they’re viral videos. We’ve heard witness accounts, testimonies given in courtrooms, we’ve seen these murders grainy and from a distance in videos, and now, with George Floyd, a cold-blooded killing — one likely planned in advance by a vengeful white man with a badge — is on video, and yet, there remains in some people’s minds room for speculation.
“We need the whole story.”
“What happened just before they hit record?”
“Maybe he should have just did what they told him.”
The racist apologists who offer these defenses aren’t refusing to see the injustice. They see it. They see the abuse of power, and they’re fine with it, they’re just sorry you’re upset.
But no more.
Across the country, coast to coast, in cities, suburbs, towns, and rural communities, Americans of conscience have said enough is enough. I stand in full solidarity with those who are out in the streets demonstrating in the name of black lives. It is my belief that equality is to be achieved by any means necessary. For critics expressing concern over the volatility of these protests, let me point out that continued pressure from the streets has led to Derek Chauvin’s arrest, the arrests of his three accomplices, the reopening of Breonna Taylor’s murder investigation, and the arrest of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers.
I’ve been in the streets of Portland with my family and my community beside me, stepping out and standing up for Black lives. Black lives matter. All lives will not matter until Black lives matter, but also Latinx, Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and immigrant lives, too. For coming out in defense of Black lives, we have encountered pepper spray, tear gas, violent threats from counter-protesters, and yes, there is a deranged element within the crowd whose sole interest is destruction. They are almost entirely white, and while the President has miscast them as anarchists, a better label would be “nihilists.” They are not marching for Black lives, even if they say so; their goal is chaos and mayhem for the thrill of it. They believe in nothing, they want nothing, and thus they have nothing to lose.
Something I heard a protester say has stuck with me, “You’re lucky we only want equality, and not revenge.” It shouldn’t have required this much action, but here we are. And if this is what it takes for the oppressed peoples of America to achieve full equality, so be it.