Recently, someone very close to me asked a very honest question in earnest: “What do you think is different this time? Why do you think people finally understand what’s been happening?”
The inquiries were in reference to how a white police officer’s murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, ignited protests against police brutality and institutional racism, not only throughout the United States, but around the entire world.
“What was different this time?”
It was an excellent question, for which the answer will likely be the thesis of many books, publications, and research studies for years to come.
After all, these overwhelmingly savage slayings — George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Eric Garner, Eric Harris, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Elijah McClain, John Crawford, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Stephon Clark, Emmett Till (these names are among an infinitesimal fraction of the black and brown men and women who have lost their lives to white police officers and other individuals who have targeted black people for existing) — are, horrifically, not new when it comes to American history and culture, both past and present.
What we’re seeing today, in response to this deadly, repetitive, and shamefully commonplace cycle, is what will inevitably affect and influence the future. That’s part of what’s different this time.
In the time between my last blog entry (“The Pandemic, The Pandemonium & The Protests“) and this article, another lynching occurred in Atlanta and was recorded for millions to see. Rayshard Brooks was asleep in his car, which interfered with vehicle access to a fast food restaurant. As a result, someone called the police. This action led to Brooks being fatally shot in the back by the police that same evening. Like Minneapolis with George Floyd, the reaction inflamed and exacerbated the already tense climate in Atlanta between protesters and the police.
Similar to pouring gasoline on a raging bonfire, the situation of Brooks’ murder not only reignited the energy and momentum behind the protests nationwide and worldwide, but significantly underscored the reasons why they are necessary and haven’t shown any signs of simmering in nearly a month since Floyd’s death. This is all occurring simultaneously with a pandemic of a contagious disease that claims approximately 2,000 American lives each day. The confluence of racial injustice, police brutality, and the pandemic, alongside the ongoing protests, will be among the most renowned events of the Year 2020, and it’s only June 23rd at the time of writing this article.
Alas, let’s return to the main questions posed at the beginning of this article. In my view, the difference was that this time, when most people around the world were at home, under quarantine, or with very limited mobility as a result of the coronavirus, it may have been nearly impossible NOT to witness Floyd’s murder. Social media and news media circulated the video immediately, which spread vociferously, and was consumed completely, as though the video was, metaphorically, a virus in and of itself.
Few to none could use their jobs, preoccupied social schedules, school work, sports regimens, or daily routines as an excuse to deny what had happened. This is in addition to the already turbulent, political atmosphere in the United States with blatant efforts to proliferate the ideology of white supremacy via the highest tiers of the federal government. All of this could not be simply ignored or swept away since it was all staring the nation in its face, naked and menacing. Ultimately, the difference was — maybe for the very first time — a majority of white people finally saw and acknowledged what black people have been saying for decades. This time, it registered.
And this time, there is no tolerance for it to perpetuate.
Here in Seattle, the protests have continued to such an extent that they have drawn the ire of the U.S. President via his obsessive use of Twitter. What I have observed is that the population — ordinary people, schools, universities, and corporations — has collectively admitted that we have a severe and chronic problem in this nation in dire need of resolution and policy changes.
This photo essay, featuring images throughout this article, shows the signage expressing support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in many different neighborhoods of Seattle. Personally, I am most impressed by the grand display of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Seattle, which can be seen from a few miles away if you’re in the right locations in the city.
Everything we’re witnessing today in response to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and Ahmaud Arbery is rather a phenomenon to me. None of what is happening today could have been fathomable a decade ago, five years ago, or a year ago.
Today, to state “Black Live Matters” aloud — from people of all ethnicities to the CEOs of the world’s largest, most profitable companies — is now part of mainstream American culture and the international community. Now in full throttle, the momentum of the movement doesn’t show any sign of dissipation.
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