No one wants to see their community burn. But the fires burning in Minneapolis, just like the fire burning in the spirits of so many marginalized Americans today, are a natural response to the trauma black communities have experienced, generation after generation.
No one wants the fires – even activists on the ground have said this. But they have also shared how their non-violent pleas and protests have gone unnoticed for years as the situation has gotten out of hand. No one knows who and what is behind the violence, but we do know that countless activists, grassroots leaders and preachers were screaming non-violently long before now: “Change, America! Change, Minneapolis!” Rather than listen, many of those in power saw even their non-violent protest as an unwelcome development.
This is so often the case because many Americans struggle to imagine that our government’s policies and its long train of abuses demand radical transformation. Too many want to believe racism is merely caused by a few bad actors. We often turn racism into a spectacle, only considering the cruel legacy of racism when an egregious action escalates outrage to this level.
Black Americans have rarely been able to sustain such illusions. Deadly racism is always with us, and not only through police brutality. In the midst of the current pandemic we are painfully aware that our families bear a disproportionate burden of Covid-19 deaths. In some cities where racial data is available, we know that black people are six times as likely to die from the virus as their white counterparts. Even before Covid, large numbers of black Americans died because of the racial disparities in healthcare, which are systemic and not unintentional.
African Americans are three times more likely to die from particulate air pollution than our fellow Americans. The percentage of black children suffering from asthma is nearly double that of white people, and the death rate is 10 times higher. This is but a reflection of the fissures of inequality that run through every institution in our public life, where the black wealth gap, education gap and healthcare gap have persisted despite the civil rights movement, legal desegregation and symbolic affirmative action. We understand that the same mentality that will accept and defend the violence of armed officers against unarmed black people will also send black, brown and poor people into harm’s way during a pandemic in the name of “liberty” and “the economy”. [Continue reading…]