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waters rolling down like justice

You may have a hard time understanding being so angry that you destroy other people’s property—and maybe even the businesses in your own neighborhood. My husband’s family owns a commercial property and we certainly don’t have the means to just replace that property and the business within it. Like many others during this time of COVID-19, we know that there is no proof that the business will make it through these uncertain days. We don’t deserve to be harmed in additional ways because someone else did something wrong.

Man, do we take umbrage when we think of being falsely thrown into any accusation of the bad behaviors of others—whether we’re business owners, working in law enforcement, or just people on the street. We shouldn’t have to suffer for the sins of others.

But as that is true for us, it is too late for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

Over 28 years ago, large and pregnant, I fretted about bringing my son and daughter into that particular time. It seemed as if all of Los Angeles were burning after four officers were acquitted of committing brutality on Rodney King. As I recently explained to my soon-to-be 28-year-old daughter, the Rodney King case was such a flashpoint because the fairly new accessibility of personal video recording devices had allowed that brutality to be captured and released into the world’s collective consciousness.

Was such injustice new? No. Were such riots new? No. What was new was that those of us far from those circumstances and happenings now had a better chance of understanding that justice was often being served unevenly.

And yet, here we are 28 years later, video after video after video released to the world, and many moms who were pregnant when I was have had to bury their children.

There is always the chatter. What were they doing to cause this? Why weren’t they respectful to the officers? Look at the crimes they have committed before. If they’re innocent, why did they resist or run? And then when other people get angry at their deaths, it’s statements such as this behavior delegitimizes their cause. There is no excuse for property destruction—or it’s only an excuse to get free stuff. And then let’s get super angry that football players kneel—of all “offensive” actions they could take—because they think that sometimes black people are served up vigilante “justice” instead of the promise inherent in our “Star Spangled Banner.”

Well, first of all, we’re supposed to have a justice system in this country that doesn’t put decisions in the hands of those who are arresting people. We don’t convict people for how they have acted in the past. We are to base our judgment only on the particular crime for which they are charged. For crimes of note, our citizens are due a trial with a judge and a jury of their peers. And—we don’t execute people on the spot for even legitimate misdemeanors or felonies. We require a series of steps before we condemn people to death. Because death is the ultimate penalty—it cannot be undone.

Beyond all the injustice we’ve watched occur in real time again and again, the feeling of impotence in these times is growing for many. It seems as if there is no legal recourse for disagreements. When the GAO points out that proposed tax changes will increase the deficit and harm the earners at the bottom and in the middle, put it through. When the public outcry on changes to SNAP and school food programs is overwhelming, let the FDA do whatever it was going to do anyway. When people armed to their teeth overrun the state houses and put up effigies of leaders, support their right to “liberate” their governments and let them stand without official resistance. Every legitimate channel for effecting change appears to becoming less about “We the People” and more about the people who are in charge now.

I could go on and on providing examples of disheartening policy changes and actions—and I am only listing a few of the grievances that have occurred with this Trump administration in leadership. If I feel threatened when our nation’s leader is retweeting statements that say “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat” (a statement that hearkens to a common sentiment in taking these lands—“the only good Indian is a dead Indian”), imagine how much more a person of color feels that.

Continued similar dog whistles come from the White House—“when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons,” calling white extremists“ very fine people.

If we want to be judged on the content of our character, why are we surprised that others want the same thing?

In his poem Harlem, Langston Hughes asked what happened to a dream deferred—and finished the poem with “Or does it explode?

Why shouldn’t people of color be angry?

The question is, why aren’t more of us angry for them?

Until we turn our anger to systemic racism and do something about it, let’s stop clucking about the violence and destruction. Demand that our leaders lead toward making this a nation for all its people–or vote them out. There’s a difference between people who still are working on increasing their awareness and those who actively don’t care that some of God’s children aren’t even offered the crumbs from this nation’s tables.

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