Ahmaud Arbery is chased by civilians and murdered in the street. No one is charged or arrested for months because the murderers have friends in key places in the justice system. Breonna Taylor is shot multiple times by police officers who barge into a home looking for someone else who is being detained elsewhere. Christian Cooper is a birder who asks a fellow civilian to leash her dog. Instead of complying she tells Christian “I’m going to call the police and tell them you are threatening me” which is exactly what she does,l. She expertly modulates her voice to sound hysterical, as if she is under a rising threat, when in fact Christian hasn’t moved. A store owner was suspicious of George Floyd, believing he had forged a check. Police met him with force, literally crushing the life out of him. Protestors are risking their health during a global pandemic, and are being met with tear gas, action that was noticeably absent from armed white protestors in front of state houses a matter of days ago.
And even though we have all lived through the emotions and writings and videos and artwork accompanying all of these incidents, I’m sure we will find that morning brings with it a debate- “but why are the protestors looting?”
And if you are tempted to do the same, I want you to go back to the first paragraph and read it again. And again. And again. I need you to remember Trayvon and Michael and Tamir. I need you to remember Sandra and Walter and Eric. I need to realize that the world is always on fire for us. Always.
And then I need you to ask some critical questions.
-Why would we put equal (or greater) emphasis on looting than an officer murdering a person?
-Why is this country so clear that looting is wrong, but is unclear about what should happen to a police officer who takes a persons life?
-Who do the police protect? Who do they serve? Not theoretically, but actually. Why did Amy Cooper honestly believe she could call the cops in hysterics on Christian Cooper?
-What happens when the police take a life? What should happen?
-Why is it possible for police to stay calm when white people are armed, screaming, threatening but treat diverse protestors as dangerous?
-How would our justice system have to change so that police murders are rare and looting therefore virtually non-existent?
I hope my point here is being made. It is not enough to divorce oneself from all of America when discussing looting. To do so is to avoid asking particular questions about America’s system of policing.
Perhaps you wouldn’t do it. And that’s swell. Perhaps you don’t condone it, and that’s fine. But please don’t be moved off topic. When someone asks, “but don’t you think looting is wrong” I hope you will respond, “I think the police murdering George Floyd is wrong, and since that is far worse than looting, I’ll be seeking accountability for that.”
Sit with these questions. Ask yourself whether or not this system, this way of being is okay with you. Move beyond the hashtags and allow what’s happening to transform the way you think about justice, policing, harm, violence.
Ask the critical questions. Find thoughtful answers. Work for the world you want.
*per usual, typos prove you love me*