historic times

This blog’s 16th anniversary was on the first, but it didn’t seem like a time to celebrate. It still doesn’t. I’ve been quiet here because we all know what’s going on. We’re still in the middle of a global pandemic, but we couldn’t take a break from protesting because America didn’t stop killing Black people because of the pandemic.

Very briefly, because of 2017, eyes turned to Charlottesville. We had one small protest last weekend, one occurred yesterday and there is one scheduled for today. Either because of the students largely not being here, the unhealed wounds of 2017 or a strong desire to not become a hashtag again, our demonstrations were short and to the point.

But the protests had to happen because of what we saw. It wasn’t as detached as some of the videos of shootings or the other choke holds. This was nearly nine agonizing minutes of a police officer using his knee to squeeze the life out of someone in broad daylight on a street and we couldn’t do anything about it. Talking about it on social media and moving on just wasn’t enough because it happens again and again.

And it continued to happen as people protested. We had press releases contradicting what was aired live. We had officers doing the electric slide with protesters before hitting them with their batons. We watched pleas for the police to stop killing us be met with indiscriminate use of tear gas.

For years, I, and I’m sure many of you have been wondering what the breaking point in America will be, what was going to be the moment that made us take a hard look at how policing got this way.

It’s kinda interesting to me that I starting binge watching Hill Street Blues before this happened (I’ve briefly paused my marathon). In the 1980s, it showed a poorly disguised Los Angeles standing in for a poorly disguised Chicago. It was the “bad old days” of horrific poverty, despair and crime. The pain characters are flawed but overall noble. The bad cops always are the guest stars who wind up fired, transferred or killed off. At halfway through the third season, we never really see why that precinct is the way it is beyond the brief mentioning of white flight and the open war between the police and residents in the period before Capt. Frank Furillo assumed his role.

Still, the way they do things is cringeworthy. Nowadays, most of it is illegal. Nowadays, most of it is illegal but officers do it anyway. You can see how procedurals like it and the belief that official press releases in real life made so many things appear to be true at all times.

That sentiment has carried for nearly 40 years, that idea that the Black and brown areas of each city are just places where life is nasty, brutish and short, and the police are the only things keeping them from not only destroying their walled-off portions of the city but also the rest. Being outside means you’re up to no good. Being outside of your expected zone especially means it. We’re dealing with biases, stereotypes and a dearth of resources so deep, people could not and would not see that racism was at its root.

There’s much more to say, I’m I’m not writing this to debate it or have a conversation or link to charts and graphs and studies to prove points you already know and/or refuse to believe. If at this point, you’re still waiting for someone to prove you wrong, nothing’s going to change your mind.

I inadvertently fell into writing editorials twice a week, and this is what I wrote on the first:

It’s a community with high incomes, long life expectancy, burgeoning commerce and sites that are draws for tourists. It’s also a community where high incomes mask inequities, where life expectancy varies widely between racial groups, where small business owners of color feel shut out of capital and there are spaces where many people of color aren’t overtly unwelcome but feel it over generational lines. The world watched as death came in broad daylight on a city street.

I’m talking about Minneapolis.

Over the weekend, Charlottesville, a city still reckoning with its own longstanding and recent trauma,  joined other localities across the country and globe in marching against police brutality. They also marched because of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black people during encounters with police or people claiming policing authority. The protests locally and nationally came with varying degrees of anguish, pain and rage. Unfortunately, police in some places through the country, some as close as Richmond, Fredericksburg and Manassas, responded aggressively. And, unfortunately, some people in the crowds also took advantage of the demonstrations. But we cannot let that detract from how people are crying out for their voices to be heard, for justice, for change.

We also cannot ignore that the COVID-19 pandemic still is raging. Especially if you found yourself in close quarters during demonstrations or had to remove coverings from your face during your attendance, monitor yourself and your households for symptoms. If tests are available where you are, seek one.

Protests punctuate weekend, June 1-2, 2020, Elliott Robinson

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