I told my daughter a few days ago to never be afraid to use your voice, because it’s the only tool we have to change the world. This is me following my own advice, I suppose.
The outrage, despair and confusion that is pouring into the streets is not unexpected. I don’t support the looting, the violence, the confrontation: it only serves to widen the divide, to cement the image of the Danger we’re believed to be. But all that rage, all that fear — where was it supposed to go? Under the proverbial rug with the stockpile of other similar atrocities? None of this is new – and it’s clear that our voices, the images of police brutality, or the stories of all those that have had their lives taken from them have made little impact on the dialogue. So what was left?
The whole thing is almost beyond sad. I say that because, even in the face of this, so many peaceful protests have ended in the heavy-handed, deliberate disregard that the protests are trying to bring attention to. Peaceful protesters forcibly chased away for photo ops. People corralled and then teargassed, fired on with rubber bullets, pepper sprayed, beaten on the sidewalk like rabid animals. Thousands arrested and detained with no clear de-escalation in sight… just the continued stamping out of voices desperate to be heard.
No one argues that law and order must be maintained — but all of this is a clear statement by those who profess to run the world: this is just noise to us – signs of civil disobedience and people that need to be brought back under the heel, nothing more. The cries of millions seem to have made little difference to the indifference with which fellow human beings are treated. That’s the saddest part.
I know, it’s complicated. That’s one of the standard party lines, right? “there’s more going on than it appears”, “we can’t comment but wait until the whole story comes out (which rarely does)”, “it’s just a few bad apples”. To be clear, I don’t believe all police officers wake up meaning to do harm: it’s a difficult job, filled with all the things most of us don’t want to deal with – and an unenviable amount of stress comes along with that. I get that. I do believe, however, that the institution they serve allows and excuses harm — and as a direct result, while not openly encouraging it or more rigorously suppressing it, condones it.
I’ve known many police officers –and heard the stories of what they are subjected to in order to become one of society’s Protectors. And yet, the mechanism that should be weeding the bad and the malevolent from one of our most valued social structures is either badly broken or non-existent. It’s a culture that protects its own, even those within its fold that don’t deserve the honour of wearing that badge anymore, if they ever truly did. There’s an odd irony in this: If that mechanism worked as it should, perhaps none of this would be happening.
We’re only at the beginning of whatever path we’ve been thrust down — like it or not, comfortable or not. The word of the day is Racism — but the true enemy is inequality and discrimination of any kind.
So, what now? Stop blacking out my social media feeds. Stop telling me you see me: just see me, and the Indigenous, and the Hispanics, the Asians, the LGBTQ and everyone else that doesn’t look, act or sound like you. Do something to move the world forward: find a cause to support, right a wrong, educate yourself on the plight of those around you. Petition your local government and police organisations to provide more clarity into their training; scrutinize their interactions with racialized communities until we no longer need to. Even the smallest actions matter.
Most importantly, we need to stop viewing each other as the Other - the Threat, the Thing to be Feared, the Thing We Don’t Understand - because we’re not. We’re all human, with the same desire for safety, for love, for opportunity and acceptance.
Please stay healthy, please stay safe Faceless.