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To hear people call for your firing from the NFL because you dared to peacefully and symbolically take a knee. To be called a “thug” for your anger with the society that refuses to listen when you’re civil. We have seen it time and time again. A society that will never be happy with whatever you decide to do. People that shun you for wanting to challenge a status quo built on your oppression.
When women tried, they were called irrational. Hysterical, even. To be so outraged and upset at your oppressors that you need to yell and cry and break a couple of things is something the oppressor cannot fathom. If your husband or your father is not physically abusing you, why are you so mad? If he is, why are you making it just about women?
Years later, we ask black people the same questions and make the same excuses. It’s just a couple of cops. It’s been happening for as long as this country’s been alive. Why make it a matter of race, or police brutality? One bad cop does not make all of them bad. Besides, how dare a few people be outraged enough at being ignored to riot?
(No one’s talking about the much more numerous peaceful protesters. Whose fault is it that we either grant negative attention or none at all?)
If you find yourself wondering about the protesters’ intentions and motives, examine the limits of your perspective; you just might not be as non-racist as you think. Most of the brutality we have seen is against young black males, but this is by no means the only thing the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to address. When we remember the elderly, children, or women who belong to racial minorities, we realize it is not merely the police that the movement is addressing.
Brutality and racial bias permeate nearly every interaction and situation in America. Calls for reopening the country accelerated when politicians realized COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting African Americans, especially those of higher age. Schools in majority-black districts are commonly underfunded, forcing black children into a life founded on undereducation and low literacy. Queer black women were the ones who started BLM in the first place after the family of Trayvon Martin had to live through the tragedy of seeing the teen’s murderer acquitted.
Oppression will never be a straight, one-way street. It branches off to any member of society that can easily be scapegoated or excluded. You can try a detour, but when you wear the characteristic that justifies your oppression on your face, it will keep reaching you, unless we address the source.
The riots are a tragedy, but they are expected. Instead of blaming people, we should hurry up and address their grievances. Some of the most iconic moments in this country’s history were riots—did the Boston Tea Party not involve the destruction of valuable property and the ire of British investors by a small group?
But the Sons of Liberty did not gain independence alone. It is not enough to feel angry at the treatment of George Floyd, or Breonna Taylor, or Ahmaud Arbery. It is also not enough to make the police the only targets of this anger. If we want change, we must transform the society that allows people with an ounce of power to abuse it against minorities with impunity, be those abusers politicians, policemen, or even grocery store owners. We must remember that any worthwhile liberty does not come easy or pleasing to those who benefit from the status quo and that all lives cannot matter unless black lives always matter.