Twenty-two days into the Black Lives Matter protests, I can’t help but to think: Would this multiracial and intergenerational uprising exist if we weren’t in a pandemic?
I know it’s a crazy thought, but hear me out. Black Lives Matter was created in 2013, and yet seven years later, Black people are still being murdered on tape by police officers, and very little has been done to enact meaningful reform in the US’s criminal justice system. Sure, we’ve made progress, but for the past few years, it’s felt as if we’ve been shouting Black Lives Matter into a white void.
Seeing a Black man murdered on a viral video is not new — it’s happened at least 7 times since January. It can’t be that people actually care about the microaggressions that BIPOC have been dealing with everyday of their lives. It’s not like black and brown communities haven’t been dying at alarming rates, even before the presence of COVID. It’s not like Donald Trump, Steven Miller and Steve Bannon haven’t made a complete discography of implicit and explicit racist comments, posts, and tweets over the past four years?
So what changed? Why do our lives matter now? Why does a whole new group of people suddenly seem to care about the racism that I’ve experienced every day of my life?
“Our whole lives no one listened or cared about microaggressions to blatant racism. We were gaslit into silence. Now white America is ‘“listening” and asking what to do. I can’t help but to feel it’s because they are scared of what else will burn. How much money they will lose. This switch feels pacifying, condescending and insincere and I don’t trust it.” — Debra Cartwright, Artist
I’ve come to the conclusion that people are choosing to decide that Black lives matter now because for the first time in modern history, no one has the luxury of avoiding what is happening around them. We have been trapped in quarantine for months without a single pretense of normalcy to guide us.The protests, the looting, the tweets, the videos, etc., is everywhere. BLM is inescapable, and for the first time an unengaged audience are opening up their eyes and minds.
But BLM is more than just about dismantling the criminal justice system and addressing the issues outlined in The New Jim Crow. BLM is about the full spectrum of social justice. Overhauling the institutionalized racism that has permeated in American culture for decades. The same racism that has prevented promotions, equal wage, access to capital, access to basic healthcare, housing in places that aren’t food deserts, decent education, and the freedom to vote.
Personally, I think it’s more than being worried about all of the money lost or what else will be burned down. I think that people are realizing that if the black community doesn’t vote in November, they will be stuck in the same hellish cycle with the current administration and aren’t willing to take that chance.
So, if that is indeed the case, the Black community really has less than six months to make America care and commit to real reform, and to install guardrails to hold everyone accountable. It’s imperative that we hold every elected official, politician, CEO, community leader, journalist, and the like accountable, because we’ve been here before. While people say that Black lives matter, usually they are nowhere to be found when we actually need them to show up.
The Black community is not a monolith, and we don’t only care about the killings of Black men and women by the police and by vigilantes. We care about climate change. We care about public health. We care about education. We care about safe housing. We care about wage parity, especially for Black women. In essence, we care about the basic tenets of surviving. The issues that plague my community can’t just be eradicated with new politicians, legislation, and increased budgets.
No — the ideology surrounding Blackness has to change before anything can really happen. And we have a six month window to make it possible. We’ve spent decades laying the groundwork, now it’s time to actually bring these changes into fruition.
In that vein, E∙NOUGH is starting a series focused on how to make the most of these next six months. How to wield the tools at our disposal to create and implement lasting change in every aspect of our lives. All we ask is that you share the interviews and insights with your community and donate to the organizations that we highlight, because they are doing amazing work that will continue long past election day.
Speaking of elections — everyone who has not yet done so needs to register to vote. Rock the Vote allows you to check your voter registration status, and links you directly to your Secretary of State’s office.
Looking forward to embarking on this journey with you!