Friday, November 23, 2018

Ashley Akunna: On Lynching, Police Brutality, and Anti-Black Terrorism

Now This Opinions feature short but provocative videos offering real deal perspectives on controversial issues. I often appreciate them. But in the effort to make one clear point, the speaker sometimes has to leave out the broader context. And this frustrates me. I know that only so much can get said in a few short minutes (which is, unfortunately, all many viewers in the U.S. will give a topic, no matter how complicated or crucial). Yet, in my opinion, to leave out the context is to weaken the argument.

I am sharing the op-ed above because Ashley Akunna's voice is one that needs to be heard on lynching, police brutality, and anti-Black terrorism. But after watching it the first time, I broke into tears. Not because of what was said, but because expecting cops to have and demonstrate empathy for Black people sidesteps the point that most cops are not rogues operating individually or exceptionally.

The White Supremacy we are all spoon-fed from birth in this culture drives the thinking -- and the behaviors -- of decision-makers, judges, politicians, social service workers, corporate executives, "ministers," teachers, news reporters, filmmakers, publishing house editors, cops, and so on, ad nauseum, from sea to shining sea. The things I am forced to say about this in front of my classes in an effort to tell my students the truth make me want to despair. But when I look into their faces, I know I don't have that luxury. The last words on my dying lips will be, "Nobody's free until everybody's free."

We must go to the root. Should we hold the police, ICE, and the FBI responsible and accountable for their actions? Of course. But who's gonna do that? The authorities? Hardly. We must demand the dismantling of White Supremacy globally. We must declare oppression in all its forms to be a manifestation of overarching evil that threatens the common good. We must acknowledge that poverty is violence, that mass incarceration -- and most particularly, solitary confinement -- is violence, that discrimination is violence, that microaggressions are violence, and that disdain and dismissal and "turning a blind eye" are violence. We must demand that all oppression ceases once and for all, even the oppression we have internalized and excused in ourselves. And we must prepare ourselves to act responsibly and without apology to make our declarations, acknowledgements, demands, and actions reality.

Until we do, the police will continue to maim, terrorize, and murder Black men, women, and children, not as isolated acts, but as the predictable outcomes of an ideology so pervasive and endemic to our culture that -- left unchecked into our imminent future -- will leave none of us able to escape with our lives or our sanity. And that is already a reality we can neither ignore nor dodge.

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