Black Lives Do Not Matter Here

It happened in the United Stated of America, live in 2020, in the Midwest, Minneapolis no less. While it was not a brutal arrest, no one was hit or shot, an expensive camera remained running after the reporters were taken, recording the lower bodies of a line of State Police. The reporter who is observing this repeats himself, “I‘ve never seen anything like this.” He appears stunned. The line of police does not look human, their eyes covered by shields.

The police said that the CNN crew was being arrested because they were told to move and didn’t, this statement is contradicted by the on camera conversation that the reporter on site, Omar Jimenez, had with the Minneapolis State Police. Mr. Jimenez was calm, his voice low, steady and reasonable, asking the police where he and his crew should move. As CNN stated, “A black reporter from CNN was arrested while legally covering the protests in Minneapolis. A white reporter also on the ground was not.”

I have just woken out of a dream about a Chinese dentist who used Chinese medicine to heal me. It is my bad habit to wake and check out the New York Times first thing. I am up earlier than usual because my stomach hurts and the dogs are restless. Perhaps they sense my unease, perhaps they sense my country falling apart, although I doubt it.

Several days ago, a man kneeled on another man’s neck. The kneeling man had an odd self-satisfied look on his face that belied the situation. He appeared calm and he appeared to be quite happy to maintain his position. My neck hurt just watching the footage. The other man, on the ground with a knee on his neck pleaded for help, “Please, I can’t breathe.” He was polite. The man on the ground died on the way to the hospital the news reported, frankly I thought, watching the footage, he died on the street. The man on the ground was accused of forgery. The store owner who he was allegedly committing a crime against, said he was a good guy. “I don’t even know if he knew the twenty he gave me was phony.” The man on the ground died for twenty dollars. The man on the ground, whose neck was sat on, was African American. The kneeling man was white and a policeman. All of this happened in one of the most liberal cities in the U.S.

How is this possible? In my wildest imaginings I cannot see myself being completely unaware that someone whose neck I was kneeling on was dying. Dying under my knee. There is quite the metaphor there. I was struck watching the footage of this that the white police officer looked smug, content, as if he were happy to take the other man’s life. No wonder there are riots in Minneapolis. Anyone watching the video might want to riot.

I am white, privileged, working from home in the time of a pandemic. I live in a town where there are few people of color. However, even here a young woman’s business was attacked. She was African American. In this quiet, relatively peaceful town a young woman’s livelihood was assaulted. Even here racism exists. Of course it does, this is America.

I am surprised, not stunned, that in Minneapolis this virulent, violent racism exists. It is a liberal city, or I had thought it was. Is there any place in America that does not hate people because of their color? This hatred appears to be engrained and automatic.

Humans like to feel superior to someone, this appears to be a universal trait. The shame we feel we project onto the other, other because of skin color, ethnicity, language, facial features, or name.

Several years ago, another young man was killed by the police in Minneapolis. He was shot for driving in the wrong neighborhood. Recently I heard someone say that he was their kids lunch guy, and that he was a nice guy. Thanks to the global hatred of people who are not white, he is now a dead guy. Minneapolis has a track record.

To add to the fray, Mr. Trump, the current President of the United States stated on Twitter that protesters in Minneapolis could be shot.  Twitter made the statement that this violated their rules against “glorifying violence.” Twitter was Mr. Trump’s favorite platform to communicate with the American public, I am guessing it is not now.

Mr. Trump may be unaware that the right to free speech and free assembly is enshrined in the constitution of the United States. Or he simply does not care.

It is true that someone set a police station on fire but not every protester on the streets of Minneapolis set the police station on fire or would want to. If permission is given by the President to randomly shoot protesters not only are the innocents killed but the document that informs this country’s freedom is dismantled. This is what bothers me. In addition to the smug killing of an unarmed black man, this also deeply bothers me.

It appears obvious that the freedoms in this country only apply to one race, the people stolen from Africa to build the wealth of this country were left out of the constitution by omission and intent. They were not considered human, although human enough for Jefferson to have sex with. For that matter women, Native Americans, and a long line of others, were left out, for a long time, and in many ways still are left out. If you did not own land at the founding of this country, you had no say in what happened to you or the country you lived in. Some of this has changed but we now, as a country appear to be moving away from the good intentions that we point to in the Constitution. With a President that advocates shooting citizens for lawful assembly we are on the road to Chile in its worst days of pitching people out of airplanes if their politics did not align with the right-wing government.

If you are not disturbed by the President advocating violence again the citizenry, you should be. “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out-Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a trade unionist…so begins Martin Niemoller’s statement about how the Third Reich began its takeover of German politics and of Germany. As Tim Snyder states in his book On Tyranny, “A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves.” Our best selves do not kneel on anyone’s neck until death. Our best selves do not advocate violence against citizens practicing their lawful right to assembly. If we do not as a country want to slide into tyranny, these transgressions must stop.

If black lives do not matter, then none of our lives matter. Witness what unlawful exercise of police force and advocacy of violence has created before in the world. If the dead could talk, they would tell you, “Do not ignore this. This will rob you of all you value in the world.”

4 thoughts on “Black Lives Do Not Matter Here”

  1. So well written Mary. Tragic to even be able to read words like this and know they’re true. We could be moving in the right direction still…

  2. Boy who cried wolf

    I once met a woman, who, as a Polish child of 9, witnessed her whole family murdered in cold blood by Nazi stormtroopers. She went into forest hiding, was caught 9 times, but each time somehow escaped, and then spent the rest of the war years leading Jews out of Europe thru an underground network. When she came to our small town around 2000, near 70, her message, mostly to young people was exactly your spot-on quote from the dead.
    Years later, she was talked into writing her story by friends. This was a dreadful experience of isolaing herself for a year, in order to relive the horrors.
    At 70, she was still traveling the world, speaking mostly to youth groups, and she was a a very alive, radiant presence, in my memory.
    “Alicia, My Story”, by Alicia Appleman-Jurman.
    Thank you.

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