My fellow white people: The protests you are witnessing now– that you have been witnessing for years– have a long, storied history in American patriotism. What you’re witnessing is a 21st century Boston Tea Party.
It’s important to understand that police brutality is not new– it’s just newly on video Black people have, for generations, spoken about police brutality and most white people have minimized or outright denied the problem. Now we have the video evidence to prove Black people were correct all along.
It’s important to understand that this cannot be solved with “just obey the police and you’ll be fine.” Again, we have the video evidence to prove that that is not just untrue, but cruelly, horrifically untrue.
Black Americans have been victimized by violent oppression and police brutality for generations. We have the video evidence to prove that we should have believed Black people when they told us about their own experiences. These are undeniable facts.
We have allowed the violence and brutality to happen, even encouraged it, and continue to do so. These are undeniable facts.
When Black people stage nonviolent protests, we respond by ignoring the reason they’re protesting and denouncing the style of protest. We excoriated them for taking a knee. We excoriated them for using a Broadway stage to speak politely to the incoming Vice President. We excoriated them for wearing shirts. We excoriate them regularly for writing articles, books, and even social media posts. Statements as mild as “Black Lives Matter” and “Please Stop Killing Us” draw howls of indignation from white people. We have made it abundantly, indisputably clear that nonviolent protests are not only ineffective, but hated and ridiculed.
We aggressively minimize Black oppression by smearing and defaming every victim of a police murder. “He was no angel,” we say, as if a Black person needs to be perfectly angelic to earn the right to live. As if we ourselves live up to that standard. As if perfectly angelic behavior protects unarmed Black people from being murdered by law enforcement. It didn’t protect Aiyana Stanley-Jones. It didn’t protect Botham Jean. It didn’t protect Ahmaud Arbery. We work so hard to smear innocent murder victims we point to the misdeeds of family members and even wholly unrelated people.
Think about this: The violent oppression is real. Nonviolent protests have been ignored, denounced, and mocked. Reports of police brutality have been met with stony silence, victim-blaming, and deflection. When American colonists began violent protests against the British, most of their ire centered around financial aspects of British rule they deemed unfair, like taxes and trade policy. American culture has enshrined “taxation without representation” as the centerpiece of British tyranny, and modern Americans passionately revere the bloody war we fought in protest as the pinnacle of patriotism. Yet white Americans angrily denounce protests over the murder of unarmed American citizens by our own police.
“Not all white people,” right? Most of us seem to fall into two distinct groups:
The white people who valorize a bloody war against “the tyranny of taxation without representation” but denounce and mock all Black protests against police murders, no matter how mild or nonviolent;
The white people who valorize a bloody war against “the tyranny of taxation without representation” but denounce and mock Black protests against police murders that include property damage.
We can do better. We must do better. This revolt is a fight for justice against tyranny.
Is there any more obvious example of “tyranny” than the murder of unarmed citizens by police? “Taxation without representation” pales in comparison.
These aren’t “terrorists.” These aren’t “thugs.” These are Americans using the time-honored tradition of protest to fight against tyranny. These are Americans demanding that we live up to the promise of “all men are created equal” and “liberty and justice for all,” promises we have, for generations, failed to keep.
Black people cannot do this alone. If they could, it would have been over long before we were born. This is a problem made by white people, and we need to solve it. It starts by seeing these protests as a cry for justice. It starts by listening and believing Black witness, Black truth. It starts by examining our complicity, our failures, our willingness to believe the racist lies we were taught. It starts by understanding that there’s no difference– none– between throwing tea into Boston Harbor and throwing a brick through a Target window. The only difference is that these people aren’t fighting unjust taxes. They’re fighting for their lives.