The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and most recently George Floyd, at the hands of police has set off an outbreak of protests and rioting throughout America. While there have been a few smatterings of “All Lives Matter” and more overt racial comments, a large number of people agree that officer Derek Chauvin should be fired and taken into custody.
However, when the riots started, many have called for the violence to stop; calling for us to get “back to normal” and strive for peace.
The cyclical ire surrounding police brutality resurfaces, much like a bad play that keeps getting remounted:
Act 1: An onslaught of murders of unarmed black folx are filmed on the phones of bystanders, and broadcast to social media. PTSD activates.
Act 2: The world rages on their social media soap boxes as protests erupt around major cities. Some white people join the fight. Others talk about it with close family members. Other’s post articles and resources. Other’s don’t care. And others even embolden the pain. Politicians rebuke the violence. Academics post the latest theories they read on the matter. Military forces are employed on citizens. Clutching their pearls, White America asks “why all this violence?”
Act 3: A call for non-violence forms. Journalists begin to show disdain for the violence in their articles. they are tired of writing about it. The news cycle is about to shift so we need to wrap this up. Curfews are established. Protests are controlled. White folks go back to their communities. Justice-fueled Facebook groups begin running on empty.
Then the fog wafts in. It smells of sugar and smoke. White people begin to nod their heads in a ‘I-don’t-know-what-to-do-here’ agreement to those still talking about the issue. Ally ship devolves into discomfort. Discomfort devolves into exhaustion. Then, life ‘moves on’ and White America sleeps. we forget to care. The fog is a strong anesthetic.
Play critics write the same reviews:
“3 out of 4 stars. Love this new cast. The staging was wonderful but the message feels dated.”
Back in 2014, when the Ferguson riots happened, and then in 2015 when the Baltimore riots occurred, I was working at a start-up. I remember we had a team of 15 people and an open floor plan so we could easily talk to each other. Strategically, this was so we could shout at each other to ask for candidates that could be a good fit for a job we were trying to fill. We also shouted articles we were reading throughout the day. I remember reading about the riots.
Baltimore and Ferguson were riddled throughout headlines across all news outlets. The usual suspects wrote their usual spin on the situation. Usual language racially attached themselves to the usual groups of people: Looting and the T-word if black, ‘finding’ and ‘victim’ if white.
Similar language was used during Katrina. Different tragedy, however the media gave similar, racial, reactions.
I had shouted the headline to my team, and my co-worker said, “Okay, I understand they can protest, but burning down all those businesses? Looting? That is not okay. Violence is immature. They should use their words.”
I remember saying, “They tried using their words. More died.” We quickly changed subjects. To this day, that moment does not sit right with me. Soon I snapped back to my normal day-to-day. Life moved on. I cared about the next day.
And the fog swept in.
This timeline of 2020 has been unusually rough. Seriously. Like it’s only June, but let’s write the Year in Review now and move on, am I right?
Well in all honesty the past six years have been rough… well actually unless you were in grad school during the Great Recession then the past 12…well actually if you were in 5th grade or older on 9/11 then it is the past 20 years…we’ll actually if you’re not white, the past forever… Wow, that is a lot. Focus on what you can.
In our current zeitgeist, here was the year: In January/February (Probably since December of 2019) a novel coronavirus had infected planet America #ethnocentrism: Over 100,000 people had died. We had hit ‘Great Depression’ unemployment status. Still today, businesses, mainly local ones, are on the brink of collapsing, and all the good celebrities have died; not to mention rent still exists.
Needless to say, we were outraged. America was part of the biggest group project ever in recent memory. All we had to do was sit inside. Persevere through the latter part of the spring season, and give the science community a head start on a ultra-violet light ray gun to shoot up our asses… or a medically sound vaccine.. whichever came first.
(Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by Travis and Greg McMichael while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23, 2020. It is an ongoing investigation)
Bleach, fish tank cleaner, and good ol’ fashioned zinc became the snake oil no one wanted. Much like the medical reporting, the grading was all over the place. We were just trying to get “back to normal.” I think we landed on a D minus for that project.
We were told:
February fell into March. Work-from-home articles turned into “you are working at home not from home, and here’s the difference” articles, which turned into “Are you working?” articles. Tiger King happened. Puzzles became popular. Netflix had a weird watch party plug in that sort of worked. White America became tired. We stopped caring about news briefings. We stopped caring about what new vaccine was not going to happen…
and then the Fog crept in.
In March, protests and riots began. Three weeks in, in Michigan, White America skipped talking, looked at the month on their calendars and marched. We were up in arms. It was time to open up! Small militias stormed the Michigan capital buildings; touting their guns. “We want a haircut,” they shouted through their “we-know-the-virus-is-real” masks, to which the others replied “what? We can’t hear you through your “we-know-the-virus-is-real” masks.” We were all over the place. It reminded me of that one scene from Django:
Meanwhile, pres(K)i(I)de(N)nt(G) Trump tweeted at Michigan calling for the governor to, “Make a deal” and reopen America.
(On March, 13th, Breonna Taylor was murdered by the Louisville Metro Police Department officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove. It is an ongoing investigation)
Great documentaries surfaced on YouTube, the well-known, documentary platform. Real progress was being felt. People raged on social media. Red and Blue sentences bled all over Twitter and Facebook. The people called for the violence to stop. Remember the goal was to just get “back to normal.”
Throughout April and May, things got worse. Many died. Not reported as much, LGBTQ+ and Black and Latinx communities suffered the brunt of the virus. NPR on May 30, 2020 reports:
- In 42 states plus Washington D.C., Hispanics/Latinos make up a greater share of confirmed cases than their share of the population. In eight states, it’s more than four times greater.
- White deaths from COVID-19 are lower than their share of the population in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
- NPR’s analysis finds that in 32 states plus Washington D.C., blacks are dying at rates higher than their proportion of the population. In 21 states, it’s substantially higher, more than 50% above what would be expected. For example, in Wisconsin, at least 141 African Americans have died, representing 27% of all deaths in a state where just 6% of the state’s population is black.
(On May 25th, George Floyd was directly killed by officer Derek Chauvin, Minneapolis, MN. The officers involved have been fired. Chauvin is charged with 3rd degree murder. It is an ongoing investigation)
Trump tweeted, connecting voter fraud with mail-in ballots. Twitter responded with fact-checking the tweet and Trump made an uproar. He signed an executive order with a big pencil and everything. I am pretty sure nothing happened.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) spiked as well. Economic anxiety and stress from the epidemic caused a 20% uptick in domestic abuse.
The world had gotten sadder and sicker. And it still is. The MyPillow Guy spoke at the presidential podium. A few days ago, Trump pulled funding from the WHO. America asked for all the violence to stop. It was just one more thing. we had to sleep. We stopped caring. A glimpse of normalcy appeared as curbside pickup eased the pain…
And then the fog blew in.
Rage in May somewhat declined. People got a little healthier. States began to reopen slightly. The whole time Earth has been healing. Were we finally getting “back to normal.” The fog was in full force.
However, the fog quickly dissipated and White America woke up to protests and riots. Sign’s that said messages like ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘I Can’t Breathe,’ stormed the streets of Minneapolis and Louisville, and soon a domino effect of solidarity stretched across major cities in America. Rubbing their eyes, White America tried to see “what the heck is going on? I’ve never seen this before? Where did all this come from?” (see the ongoing investigations above).
Welcome to normal. Let’s get back to it.
Facebook and Twitter flared up with reactions to the violence. The posts start with “I’m tired.” Red and blue arguments are sprayed. The president calls the rioters the T-word. A call for nonviolence is bellowed behind computers. We learn out of town-ers and white (us) people started the fire during Minneapolis riot, even though that one song predicted it was always burning since the world was turning. 2020 sucks. Racist memes form. The news can’t focus. Time for us to wrap it up. We are beginning to not care again. We say stop the violence. It is time to sleep.
And Act 3 is about to begin.
That is where we are. But there is currently no fog. Remember Earth is healing. However, it’s coming.
AN OPEN LETTER TO WHITE AMERICA, AND MYSELF
Dear White America (Dear Me),
I feel this is not said enough: Humans are not wired to multitask. WE go a step further and are unable to multithink. And that inability enables our racism.
We know riots are not new. Remember March? And guns? Riots and violence are woven through the fabric of America: The Boston Tea Party, the Haymarket riots, Stonewall, the riots during the civil rights movement, #OccupyWallstreet. The American dream is built on the wave of violence. Connections about how ‘our America’ was looted, have already been made. White, European people looted America, and it was taken violently.
However, now we talk about riots as this ugly phenomenon that makes some say “I would never — ”. We talk about the local Target that shouldn’t be set on fire. The narrative around riots typically centers on how it was a setback for the movement. We, as revisionists, want to focus on peaceful marches and palatable protests. We remember the non-violent quotations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, our history does not condemn violence and rioting. We call that genre “action movies.” We just condemn it when the disenfranchised are involved. We call for non-violence because we can control that.
Historically, the call for non-violence is coded to mean, “this is too much for White America and it is time to forget. Please stop.” That goes for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ white people. Non-violence is rejecting a real trauma that we need to confront. It reveals our inability to think about more than one thing at a time.
Here is a symptom of our sickness. For a lot of us, when we are ashamed, when we are forced to confront ourselves, when the stress is too high, we activate a tryptophan-like amino acid in our brain that gives us amnesia; we take a dose of hydroxy-tranquilizer that allows for our memories to get foggy; especially when more than one problem is in front of us.
2020 is a perfect example of this on a national scale. Covid-19, lockdowns, unemployment, shut down businesses, an economic nosedive — Such terrible events. And now riots? So we focus on the tangible. The buildings. The economy. We can control that. The murder was terrible, but I don’t have time to care about this anymore. Time for the violence to stop because property damage. Let’s fall asleep.
Guess what, us: We are all feeling it. Non-White America is feeling it. So is LGBTQ+ America. So is all of America. And they feel it on a much bigger scale because those grim problems that plague the disenfranchised and marginalized groups didn’t leave when Covid-19 came. It just makes us want to fall asleep.
By the way, today I read Tony McDade, a black trans man, was killed yesterday by police. Roughly zero coverage about the victim, for those who have reported it are mis-gendering him.
You see they cannot fall asleep because they might not wake up.
And the list continues to grow. And it will continue to grow because being part of the solution for real peace is forcing ourselves to care about more than one thing. Our mental gymnastics to cherry pick what to focus on is a huge contributor to our divisive nature. Ask the people who argue with you using the bible, chapter and verse. Our algorithmic thinking causes us to forget our racist behavior and care for others. It leads to death.
Peace is a kaleidoscope: a fractured, multifaceted lens, that needs a a multifaceted care model. From racial equality to safety to systemic problems to climate change. We need to widen the aperture of our empathy. We need to become aware of all of it. Don’t fall asleep; don’t give into the fog: All of it matters.
So, us, we find ourselves at the same inflection point in 2020. Just as we did in 2016, and 2008, and 2001, and 1969, and 1967, and the 1800's…and the 1700's…and the…
Faced with compounding turmoil what do we want to focus on:
Racial justice and equality?
Kids in cages?
The health and well being of others?
Violence against women?
Equality for Trans folx?
Front line workers?
Student loans forgiveness?
Supporting local businesses?
Supporting Black local businesses?
Answer: Yes. Welcome to multi-thinking. It’s a trip. You’ll be exhausted. But we have been sleeping for a while. It’s okay. Grab a cup of coffee.
By the way, if you want to know how that Target is doing….