In the midst of the global rage, the incessant voice of privilege and supremacy cries profusely about looting and property damage.
If you Google the word “Riots,” the race riots of the Civil Rights era are the first thing that comes up. Interestingly enough, African Americans were not the first nor the only group of people to riot in this country. History can take you back to the first White settlers and their dealings with Native Americans, to the turn of the century riots and gang wars of European immigrants, to present day where under the guise of imparting democracy, the American government has invaded, occupied and killed.
After the Rodney King verdict in 1992, where four white officers were found not guilty of police brutality despite dash cam footage showing King being beaten for 15 minutes (resulting in permanent brain damage) the city swelled with rage and riots broke out.
In August 2014, after the Mike Brown killing in St. Louis, the city swelled with rage and riots broke out. A federal investigation was launched into policing practices, grassroots organizations emerged, and more Black judges and politicians were hired.
Now here we are in 2020, during a global pandemic and in one month, too many innocent Black lives have been taken to name.
Once again the people have erupted in rage.
There have been riots in Los Angeles and Minnesota, celebrities and children speaking out. The people are wailing in pain, anger and in resilience. The scarred flesh of the “good old days” is shedding and a rebirth is taking place. In the midst of the global rage, the incessant voice of privilege and supremacy cries profusely about looting and property damage. Anxious to rest comfortably on the sofa of “I told you they’re just animals, look at them destroying their own communities.” However, evidence of the journey of Blacks in America lends itself to a very different truth.
Blacks were not the first to riot, loot or destroy property. That is and has been the modus operandi of White America and systems of power. From the beginning of time, white systems of power have prevailed through genocide, use of brute force and looting the people and their land of natural resources and labor.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear?”
However, modern white privilege allows for and even finds riots appropriate responses for things as simple as hockey or baseball championship outcomes. Unlike the riots from the swelling of civil unrest, the riots over sports tend to be fueled by alcohol and entitlement. Yet interestingly enough no one ever calls the sports rioters, “animals.” In the weeks that have passed since Ahmaud Arbrey’s killers have been arrested, there have been more deaths of unarmed Black men and women. While three officers sat in jail for George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota, Time Magazine reported that two Black men hung from trees in California.
While there have been peaceful protests and unified protests, more killing has occurred. While a law was passed to prohibit the types of no-knock warrants that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, no arrests have been made in her murder. Amid small steps for policy change in New York and intense discussions for defunding the police and police policy reform, Rayshard Brooks was killed by the police in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta.
So many people have said that it’s just a few bad cops. So many people have tried to isolate the behaviors outside of the culture of supremacy that houses and protects them. However, supremacy is illustrating with each day that the hate for our skin tone is more valuable than societal harmony, equality or liberation. Over the past month we have learned more about who we are and where allegiances to oppression reside. We’ve seen great strides by retailers and corporations as well as false empathy, and radio silence. Many of us have stopped doing business with unsupportive retailers; friendships and relationships have been challenged and all of us are asking “What’s Next?”
How do we go forward in the midst of such dysfunction? Four hundred and fifty years of my people marching, begging, pleading, meeting and enduring oppression proved insufficient in the procurement of our liberation. This system and way of operating was not created by or for the benefit of indigenous people.
The only way that we move forward, is for those that benefit from the system to lead the charge in dismantling it. As a society everyone has to get a true education on the history and premise of racism. White voices have to actively advocate for equality, prison reform, fair wages, affordable housing, police reform and Black leadership. It has to be collective white voices leveraging their privilege and their seat at the table in spaces of power to effect change. For many, the idea of change is scary, but the future without it is scarier.
Kai Kelly is a published author, creative writer, visionary and regular contributor to Born Brown: All Rights Reserved. Her book of poetry, Love, Kai is available for purchase here. Follow her on Instagram @author_kai_kelly and Kai Kelly on Facebook.