The Cameras Are New. The Violence is Not.

National March Against Police Violence Washington DC 2014. Photo credit Ted Eytan via CC 2.0 license

I cannot bear to watch the videos of the last few days. More black men murdered by police. Police murdered by a former Army veteran. Today I am so sad I can’t work. I just want to sleep.

I am hesitant to comment as a relatively privileged white man. But I don’t want to be silent either. Which is more complicit? Which is more racist? Many years ago I remember the writer Reynolds Price, a privileged white man from the south, saying that the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of African Americans were this country’s original sins. Will there ever be enough reparations? But violence towards police trying to protect a peaceful demonstration is not a sane response. It’s more of the same: violence. I might say pointless violence. But that seems redundant. Paul asked me what point in history this reminded me of. I remember 1968 when King and Kennedy were murdered. When there were urban riots and the Democratic Convention where the Chicago police beat the crap out of the protestors.

The shootings and beatings of African American youth are not new. At another author reading, this one with the writer Walter Mosley, someone posed the question about the improved condition of African Americans in the United States. Although I suspect he was enraged Mosley responded with steely calm. He said something to the effect that every day in every major city in America a policeman beats a black man. Now the Washington Post is keeping track of those statistics and that’s an understatement.

We are seeing more cameras (embedded in most folks’ phones) and more weaponry, some of it left over from that stupid war in Iraq. I don’t know about this robot killing the sniper in Dallas. But that scares me too.

The old alignments of left and right are coming apart at the seams. As Glenn Greenwald, on the left, and David Brooks, on the right, have both said, the elites are not listening. They are not listening to working class whites that have been left behind by globalization and they are not listening to people of color, immigrants, women, and queers who have been marginalized but will soon be the majority. Barack Obama was able to slightly improve the lives of the uninsured and queer people. Was he able to significantly improve the lives of African Americans? Of the homeless? Of women? I blame him for the drones but not the crisis that brought them on. There are so many places to point. I still think we need to put people before profit and embrace human values. Today I am not at all certain what form that will take.

Posted Friday, July 8th, 2016 | Essays
  1. kelly fehr says:

    Like you, i have been hesitant to comment as a relatively privileged white person. But I don’t want to be silent either. Which is more complicit? Which is more racist? well said. i woke up this morning and made a decision about what i can do to help. stay tuned…

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