To all my mom’s readers, hello. I’m Jordan, Jodi’s 16-year old son. My mom asked me, as a young person, to share my point of view about everything going on right now: George Floyd, the rioting, and the underlying issues of racism and police brutality. I will also discuss the notable rise of activism in my generation – and I will try to make sense of the why and the how, so you can, too.
Now, a lot of things going on right now are very nuanced. They’ve all been heavily politicized as well, with name calling on both sides and manufacturing partisan debates in an environment that really shouldn’t include them (both of which I find myself guilty of). There are also some things in this situation that are not and should not be nuanced in any way. That being said, if you truly believe in your heart that black lives do not matter, please stop reading this. Even though you may need to hear these words the most, these words are not for you.
I will be covering a lot of things, and I think the best way to do so is by topic. Therefore, I may be jumping around from subject to subject with little transition in mind. This also makes it easy for you to skip a topic you may not want to read. These responses, whatever their connections may be, are meant to be independent of one another.
George Floyd – Ironically, I think that the death of George Floyd has gotten lost in the sheer chaos that ensued as a result. Personally, I choose to look at this senseless and heinous act not as a tragic death, but as a tragic demonstration of what is wrong in our country. Derek Chauvin, alongside Tou Thao, Thomas Lane, and J.A. Keung exerted their power on Floyd, who (allegedly) forged a $20 bill at a market. I want to make it clear that this is NOT the first instance of police brutality in America. In fact, this isn’t even the first instance of a victim’s last words being “I can’t breathe” – Floyd’s words echoed Eric Garner’s in 2014. (As a side note, the officer who killed Garner was never indicted, and it took five years to fire him.) The point I’m trying to make is that police brutality did not begin with George Floyd. Rather, George Floyd’s death was the straw that broke the camel’s back for a longstanding issue that has plagued American society for quite some time.
White Privilege – I’ll try to keep this short and to the point. Yes, white privilege exists. Yes, even if you don’t think you have it, you have it. Yesterday, I went on a jog with no fear of losing my life. Ahmaud Arbery did not have that same privilege. So, now that you’ve hopefully recognized the privileges you do have, I want to make a suggestion. Rather than condemn your privilege, weaponize it. Not literally; violence, as I will mention, is not always warranted. But, rather, use your amplified voice to speak out against the racism that you see and racism that others see. Be an ally, not just because you should be, but because you can be.
“All Lives Matter” – The Black Lives Matter movement is incredibly important right now. As a primarily-white American, I feel an obligation right now to stand together in solidarity with the African-Americans in my life, and I feel as though other white Americans should feel the same way. BLM also points the protestors in the direction they should be going in (rather than mindless destruction, which I will get to). So, in order to truly show solidarity, you shouldn’t diminish BLM in any way. Saying that “all lives matter” drowns out the voices that actually need to be heard right now. Imagine that your neighbor’s house is on fire, and when the fire department comes, you suddenly demand them to spray your house too because, in your eyes, all houses matter. Sure, your house might have a creaky floorboard or a faulty water system, but it is not on fire and, therefore, not a priority.
Rioting – Before you or I go any further, I’ve tried my best to stay as informed as I can about what’s going on in American cities right now – from both sides, and not just from one news channel. Truth be told, I’m staying away from the major news outlets as a whole, as both CNN and Fox News have tried to skew the narrative of these protests towards a race war and away from a war against racism.
If you are supporting Black Lives Matter and protesting police brutality, I believe it is counterintuitive to destroy more stuff as a way to somehow heal what’s already been destroyed. In particular, small businesses do not deserve to have their walls destroyed and their supplies robbed from them. This should go without saying, but the homeless do not deserve to be targeted either. These tenants of our society, many of whom were struggling before the riots, are now struggling even further due to an issue that they could not control.
That being said, not all of the looting has been done by people protesting one singular cause. It has been discovered that opportunists such as alt-right groups and even undercover officers are inciting violence as a way to get the target off of their backs. It should also be noted here that for every video of a violent protestor attacking an officer, there is a video of an officer attacking a violent (or, more notably, a nonviolent) protestor. Furthermore, for every video of police-rioter conflict, there exists a display of officers showing solidarity with protestors. The refrain of ACAB refers to the corrupt system that gives our police force immense amounts of power, but there are many cops who choose to break the chain of oppression, and these officers should not go unnoticed.
I don’t think that we should be more concerned about and focused on the looting than the police brutality. A building can be rebuilt. A window can be restored. A life can’t be brought back.
While I can’t condone all of the violence that is going on, it is absolutely worth mentioning the beautiful displays of peaceful protest going on. It brings me joy to say that just today, dozens of protestors lined up outside of my own high school. The fruits of these protests are beginning to grow; real change is being brought about, and without these protests, Officer Chauvin’s accomplices would have gone entirely uncharged. Plenty of these peaceful protestors (most notably in our nation’s capital) have been shot down and teargassed. It is unfortunate and heartbreaking to see passionate activists be grouped in with the opportunistic looters and violent protestors.
Finally, while I don’t condone looting, I also don’t think it’s our place to determine how an oppressed group chooses to protest and express their anger. Despite its flaws, we still live in a nation with the right to have a dissenting opinion. And those opinions are valuable in respectful debates about pertinent issues like this one. However, at the end of the day, if you are reading this and are not African-American, the most you can do is try to understand. Not the experience of being black in America, as understanding that as an outsider is impossible. Rather, we can try to understand the motivation behind what some black protestors are trying to do, as well as what they are trying to say with their actions. It’s also extremely important to understand that not all African-American protestors are protesting violently, and that not all violent protestors are African-American.
Donald Trump – During the calendar year of 2020, we as a nation and a planet have had to endure the near-start of a world war, Australia being on fire, violence in India, earthquakes in Turkey and the Caribbean, locusts in East Africa, the premature death of a legendary athlete, the development of a deadly disease that has infected over 6 million people around the world, millions of people losing their jobs, sports being near-completely shut down, the performing arts taking a massive blow, small businesses suffering immensely, murder hornets, and three instances within a month of flagrant police brutality, the third of which led to both peaceful and violent protests all across America.
Amidst all of this, we need a leader. And amidst all of this, Donald Trump has done nothing but incite more violence, anger more people, ruffle more feathers, and potentially increase his body count even further with the deployment of the National Guard. In a time where unity is paramount and necessary, the leader of the free world has divided us. This is not what makes a leader look good; rather, this is what makes the case for a new leader more relevant. Americans are living in fear, and their so-called leader is doing nothing but leading them on.
Activism – Older generations have been criticizing younger generations’ technology for quite a while now. Whether it was the newfangled radio or the newfangled TV or the newfangled computer or the newfangled cell phone, this is a cycle that has been and will continue to be present in our culture. But I can confidently say that the newfangled social media platforms have been nothing but beneficial during this time. Imagine that this happened in 1918, during the Spanish Flu. Without cell phones, the news to get Floyd’s murder across would have taken much longer than, well, immediately. Without the video cameras on these cell phones, we would have no way of seeing the atrocity that happened. And without social media, sharing this information en masse would be nearly impossible. So I think that social media, combined with the presence of the murder on video, was what galvanized the wave of activism. All it takes is the click of a few buttons on Instagram to make 100 new people see what you saw and (potentially) feel what you feel. Social media also gives us means to expose those dumb enough to say stupid things (including but not limited to racial slurs). Despite all the differing opinions right now, activism on social media has brought people together in a lot of ways. If we, as a generation, continue to keep our foot on the gas, I believe we can achieve real change.
Thank you for reading up to this point. Since it’s getting quite lengthy, I’ll end my rambling here. Regardless of your opinion on what’s going on right now, we should all be able to agree that black lives matter. If we can get that far as a society, I think we can get that much further.
— Jordan Singer