Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Black Lives Matter

At first I thought, why write about all the police killings and other violence toward African Ameicans, so much in the news lately.  At first I thought Black Lives Matter is keeping the problem on the front burner, where it should be, so what's to say?  Arguing with ignoramuses so often reduces to, "You are an ignoramus."  And that's not much of  contribution really.

So here's the thing.  As a Southerner I am well aware of the long history of police attacks on black Americans.  "Blue by day, white by night," we used to say.  I've witnessed some police asshattery, myself, and I'm not even black.  Too, now that I've lived in the North awhile, I know for a fact it's not confined to the South.  That is exactly zero excuse for Southern bigotry, which is very real and sometimes shockingly unabashed, even brazen.  Moreover, the violent racism that continues throughout the South is the real story there, not some idiot with an un-potty-trained mouth.  We white Southerners have a very special responsibility to work against racism, without excuses.  But don't let me hear white folks anywhere say it's not their problem.

Next thing: I have a low tolerance for bullshit.  People like to talk out the side of their neck.  Is every police shooting a genocidal conspiracy against African people?  No.  A man was shot in the area here last week.  He had a gun earlier when he committed robbery.  He holed up for hours and then came out waving something and ran towards some cops.  Maybe he was delusional, and maybe - probably - the effort to talk him down could have been better, but no outrage here, just human tragedy.

Even Michael Brown in Ferguson may not be the best rallying point in my opinion.  While the ensuing outrage is certainly justified, if only by the long history and broad context of police violence that African American communities and other people who care what happens to our fellow human beings are rightly furious over, too many questions remain for me to feel certain that the police murdered this man in Missouri.

But Eric Garner?  You must be kidding.  The choke hold they used was against regulations, even if we didn't have video evidence that the police were the aggressors.  And they escalated the situation on purpose.  The response of the official system responsible for protecting human life is only further proof of the endemic nature of the sickness.  Eric Garner was murdered on camera by the very people charged with protecting and serving him.  That's just a fact, no matter what the grand jury says.

But let us be abundantly clear: it is not about Eric Garner, or Michael Brown, or Rodney King, alone.  It's about an ongoing slaughter.  And these killings do not represent a 'crisis.'  A crisis is a turning point.  The long file of African Americans into the mortuary ushered in by police violence is an old story just breaking into the newsmedia.  The crisis is political: the rioters and the Black Lives Matter movement have forced politicians to pay attention.  At long last.

But it's still being seen in a fairly liberal (nonthreatening) context, divorced from the broader issues of inequality and incarceration in which racism serves the fat cats quite well.

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