Why You Should Be Outraged By The BLM Riots.
On May 25th 2020, George Floyd was tackled to the floor by a police officer named Derek Chauvin. The Minneapolis cop was responding to a 9-11 call from a deli employee based on the accusation that George had attempted to purchase cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. After being tackled and restrained, officer Chauvin placed his knee on the neck of George Floyd for approximately 8 minutes and 46 seconds while he begged for his life.
On May 25th 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin. An absolutely tragic event that acted as a catalyst for the events that proceeded it. Protests and riots began popping up in major cities, as supporters of the BLM movement vocalized their disgust for what had happened to George Floyd. And rightfully so. No matter what side you're on, no matter your own personal biases, it is objectively true that Derek violated his own police department's protocol, which lead to a completely unnecessary death of a human being.
Since then, riots and protests have broken out all over the country. You have peaceful protests. You have violent protests. You have people burning and looting retailers and other businesses. And of course, social media is volatile and divided. You have the group who supports what these protesters are doing. You have the group who agree with their feelings but disagree with their execution. You have those who feel that a few bad cops shouldn't ruin it for the good cops who are trying to perform their jobs altruistically. You have those who feel that the existence of bad cops, regardless of how large or small, shouldn't be at all. Basically, everyone feels SOME type of way about this tragedy and they have no fear being vocal about it. After-all, on the internet, everyone is an expert on everything.
Being a heterosexual white male in America, it took years for me to understand the obstacles faced by minority groups. Racism is systemic, and therefore can go by largely unnoticed by those who aren't affected by it. When I was younger, I too couldn't grasp why it was okay for a "Black Entertainment Television" channel to exist, yet a "White Entertainment Television" channel does not. Or why it was socially acceptable for a person-of-color to use particular language that wasn't acceptable for someone who looks like me to use. I look back in embarrassment, and I'm grateful I took the time to listen. I will never fully comprehend the struggles faced by minority groups, but I have learned to open my mind and empathize and do my best to understand and support my fellow human beings.
America's roots are well documented. Slavery and Jim Crow laws which enforced racial segregation are two unfortunate pillars of our country. And while it's true that both have been abolished, their effects are still felt to this present day. Just because laws and policy change, doesn't always mean that people change as well. And how often we forget just how recent these things are. Segregation wasn't completely abolished until the 1960's. Anyone ever hear their white grandparent say something incredibly racist? Yeah, me too. Now, lets move on.
The disproportionate incarceration of black Americans is not a myth. Have you ever heard of Harry Anslinger? In the early 1930's, Anslinger was appointed the founding commissioner of the Treasury's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and was so under 4 different presidencies. While in this position, he launched a full blown attack on marijuana use in the United States, despite his previous claims that cannabis served no threat to the public. Once prohibition ended, Anslinger went back on his own claims and spearheaded the war on cannabis use.
Harry Anslinger was a known racist. In his anti-marijuana campaign, he infamously wrote about how black people would get white girls high, using sympathy for racial injustice to impregnate them.
"Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men" - He said.
Harry Anslinger had to justify the budget of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. His solution was to build a case against cannabis, and disproportionately target the black community. He equated Jazz music with crime, and made it his mission to incarcerate as many black cannabis users as he could.
This is just one singular example of how laws and societal norms that were formed less than 100 years ago still affect the black community to this day. Although the law doesn't explicitly say "white people can use cannabis and black people cannot", according to this statistic, marijuana use is more prevalent among the white population than the black population, yet 0.36% of the white population is arrested for drug use compared to 0.83% the black population. Also, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that many who enforced these laws years ago have children who have these racist thoughts instilled in them. After-all, racism isn't something you're born with. It's something that's taught to you. And the closer you are to these old ways of thinking, the harder it is to break free from them.
Now, let's talk about police brutality.
I know what you're saying, "But Anthony, don't you know that more white people are killed each year by police than black people?" Besides being a disturbing statement all on it's own, let's dig a bit deeper into that. According to the 2017 American Community Survey, the white population was about 234,000,000 or 73% of the American population. Whereas black people made up about 40,000,000 or 12.7% of the American population. According to Statista.com, in 2019 about 370 white people were killed by the police. In that same year, 235 black people were killed by the police. Assuming the population of white and black people is largely similar in 2019 as it was was in 2017, we can conclude that 0.00015% of the white population was killed by police and 0.00058% of the black population was killed by police. In other words, black people are almost 4 times as likely to be killed by police compared to white people.
Here's another gem. In 2016, according to the fucking FBI, 70% of all arrests came from the white population whereas the black population made up 27% of total arrests. Which of course makes sense, given the large difference in population. However, the prison population is 38% black, 21% hispanic, and 35% white. Why are black people being incarcerated at a higher rate than white people when white people make up most of the crime in the country? Whether our system is consciously aware of this or not, these are important questions that you should be asking yourself.
The truth is, America has come a long way. This certainly isn't the worst place on the planet to live. But we have so much more work to do. Regardless of your skin, these are your brothers and sisters being targeted. These are your fellow human beings. Regardless of where you stand politically, this is an undeniable issue. So what can YOU do to help?
You can shut the fuck up and listen. You can open your mind and your ears. You can choose to speak in support of the people who's voices aren't being heard. You can choose compassion and understanding. You can break down the biases that have made their home within the confines of your own mind. Remember, just because something may not be directly affecting you at the current moment, doesn't mean it doesn't exist for other people elsewhere. And as for the rioting and chaos, an amazing individual once said, "A riot is the language of the unheard."
People are pissed. They are tired of being unheard. They are tired of their peaceful protests not making the impact they need. They kneeled, you bitched. They begged for their lives as they cried out they couldn't breath, you turned the other cheek. People are tired of being told what the right way to protest is. There is no handbook on protesting. Protests have been a part of our world for thousands of years, and are integral to American culture. It is our duty to fight against injustice. And you can argue that violence doesn't stop violence, and I would argue that there is far more historical evidence that it does. And to the looters who don't give a shit about black lives and are simply taking advantage of the situation, well you can fuck right off too.
So yeah, you SHOULD be outraged by the BLM riots.
Because that's exactly the point.