**Trigger warning: reference to violence against black communities.
Today we take a break from the usual weekly update to reflect on the atrocities of state-sanctioned violence happening in our country right now. During the past few months, as our attention has been focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, black families across the nation have continued to be murdered due to intrinsic, systemic racism, by the people who are supposed to be protecting them (police forces).
For those living in 1967, or those who were actually taught the history of our nation in school, it may seem that the events of this week are a repeat of the Detroit Race Riots in 1967, and do you know what? They are. The race riots in 1967 were triggered by police suppression and brutality of black residents of Virgina Park, much like the protests around the county this week were triggered by the tragic murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. History, in this case, is repeating itself because very little has changed in our society since 1967. How can we teach our children in schools about the “success” of the civil rights movement and abolishment of Jim Crow laws when our country is still lynching black people, albiet without literal ropes, but instead, knees to the neck?
In the last few weeks a total of eight Black Americans have been murdered by racism. Tony McDade, McKinsley Lakeith Lincoln, Regis Korchinski Paquet, Nina Pop, Steven Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Only three have made headlines nationally. Almost six years to the date of Eric Garner’s last words being “I can’t breathe,” George Floyd pleaded for mercy in the same tone of desperation, echoing the same exact words “I can’t breathe.”
The system that killed George Floyd is the same system that signaled to Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old girl who filmed George Floyd’s death, that George’s fate could be hers too if she spoke up in the moment. It’s the same system that allows Trump to encourage law enforcement to shoot protesters in a tweet with nothing more than a “glorifying violence” tag from Twitter, and the same system that makes white people like Amy Cooper feel empowered to call the cops on a black man birdwatching.
Today, and every day before and every day after, we stand in anger, grief, and resistance to a nation that continues to turn a blind eye to the systems that oppress and kill our black and brown families. It is our responsibility as individuals to yell and shout and push for change, especially those of us who are white or have light-skinned privilege.
White folks and those with light-skinned privilege:
- Educate yourself on how to be an ally. Our friends at Bookworks have put together a list of books about white supremacy and how you can help to dismantle it.
A call out to POC and queer communities: take care of yourselves this week. Then run for office. While this is not the only solution to dismantling a racist system, it is one component that is often overlooked. We need more people of color, women and queer community members who have first-hand experience with systems of oppression to be re-imagining systems in which all of our families can thrive. We can’t do that without you in office. If folks in office never have a deep understanding of how the racist, sexist, classist, homophobic and transphobic etc. systems of oppression affect our communities, things will never change.
- Get involved with our local activist community. Here are some places to start: Millions for Prisoners New Mexico, Building Power for Black New Mexico, Indigenous Rights Center, Center for Peace and Justice, New Mexico Dream Team, Generation Justice.
- Vote. Fill out your absentee ballot and drop it off at your county clerk, go to an early or day of voting location (with appropriate Covid-19 attire), and make your voice heard. There are so many local candidates who care deeply about changing the systems that oppress our communities.
We cannot remain quiet while our friends, neighbors and families die. As Audre Lorde said, “your silence will not protect you”. Perhaps our activism will.