By Patrick Belvin
At first glance, you may think that I am talking about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tabaco, Firearms and Explosive – and maybe wondering where is this going. I am not talking about that. I am talking about Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd; Arbery, Taylor, Floyd; ATF. Their murders, Floyd’s in particular, have resulted in a global response that demands accountability for the injustices perpetrated on Black people by the police. From Minneapolis, Louisville, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Germany, to the United Kingdom, White people have joined the marches in the streets with Black people to say THIS IS ENOUGH! People watched the slow-motion execution of George Floyd committed by Derek Chauvin and saw what their eyes were telling them – that Chauvin, even as he was being filmed, casually took Floyd’s life as if he were casually smoking a cigarette.
People en masse have taken to the streets with a determination unlike anything we have seen in American history. Most of the protesters have worn facemasks, being aware of Coronavirus. Many of the marches have been peaceful. The protesters have ignored taunts and forged ahead to excise their First Amendment rights.
George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police is not an aberration. The fact that it was caught on tape makes it unique – but this time there it is a different tenor in the public response to police violence that society must use as an assessment towards a reconciliation to address what has gone on far too long. I am calling for a complete autopsy of policing – a dissection and analysis aimed at getting to the cause that constricts, terrorizes, and murders People of Color.
There truly is a sign of real police reform afoot. However, that is just the start to addressing the myriad of problems that sill plague Black communities. Policing in the U.S. is a symptom, not a diagnosis of what is wrong with Western culture. Again, people are seeing this. Structural inequality has suffocated Black communities. The lack of upward mobility might have driven George Floyd to walk into that corner store with a fake $20 bill. The Coronavirus’s impact on the economy has not fully addressed these inequities. It has simply highlighted the argument that Black people have been making for decades. And it’s not just Black people who are seeing this – again, look at who is protesting alongside us in the streets.
Colin Kaepernick’s name and intentions resurfaced in this argument of racial inequality and police brutality. His career, his athleticism in his prime were stolen after he protested the mistreatment of Black people and police violence. The National Football League’s response to Kaepernick is laid out perfectly in an article written by Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, titled “This is why Colin Kaepernick took a knee.”
The league commissioner, Roger Goodell, said in a statement “We, the NFL, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter.” Though Goodell does not mention Kaepernick in the entirety of his statement, it is clear that his remarks, and other owners around the league who have issued similar apologies for their indifference to racial inequality, are trying to be on the right side of this history.
The racial unrest Black people have felt for generations is finally tearing at the soul of a nation – this turbulence demands structural change as the violence perpetrated against ATF (Arbery/Taylor/Floyd) fuels our advance towards equality. These vicissitudes are partially dependent on the results of the future presidential election. If Biden wins, Black people have given him a mandate – one that he has to put into motion. If Trump is reelected by hook or crook, there will be challenges to trying achieve true and lasting change in America. Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author of Between the World and Me, stated during a podcast with Ezra Klein, “It may be true that Donald Trump will win. Maybe this will lead to some sort of white backlash that ultimately helps him.” The “this,” I believe, Coates is talking about are the protests.
We are in the midst of a true moral transformational moment in our history. We, Black people, must seize this time to make progress in education, K-12 and higher education by securing larger endowments and federal funding for HBCUs. We must push for better healthcare, neighborhood facelifts, and foundational wealth. Now, more than ever, we have to make good on what we said we would do if this moment ever arrived. I believe we are 100-meters from the finish of that 400-meter race we have been running so hard for so long.