America finds itself in a battle against two viruses. One is newly discovered and highly contagious the other is much older and extremely contagious too, both are killers and can make breathing impossible. I am talking about COVID-19 and racism. Yes, racism is a virus, it is something that poisons the mind or soul. As with COVID-19 there are some who insist it is not a real threat, that it does not exist.
People infected can be asymptomatic for a while, like Amy Cooper aka Central Park Karen. She called 911 on May 29, 2020 to report that she was being assaulted by a black man. The black man in question was birdwatching and asked her to put a leash on her dog consistent with the policy in that part of the park. She refused. Asymptomatic racism can be revealed by the words “black lives matter.” The words can make some uncomfortable and trigger a retort like, “all lives matter.” The statement is not, “Only Black Lives Matter,” but “Black Lives Matter (too).” It does not suggest that the lives of one race are more important than the lives of another. Black lives matter as much as Asian lives, Hispanic lives, or European lives, etc. The discomfort may be with the idea that black people believe their lives have value. After all, they are descendants of slaves or people from shithole countries, as the 45th President of the United States stated on January 11, 2018, and are not to be respected. How dare they believe that their lives have value. Who told them this? “Black lives matter” sounds like a challenge to some, but the words are a succinct statement of fact. Why is that challenging?
Many here in the United States and all over the world watched a viral video of a police officer murdering a man, a black man, on a street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The man, George Floyd, was handcuffed, hands behind his back, on the ground, on his stomach, offering no resistance. The police officer knelt on the man’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, until he died from asphyxiation. The officer suspected that the now dead man passed a bad check for $20 and for this suspected infraction of the law death was the penalty. The officers involved in the incident were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department within a day of the video’s release. The murder took place on May 25th, 2020, but It took five days of protests before the former police officer was arrested and charged. The other three officers present at the murder scene were neither charged nor arrested until June 3rd, 2020.
It is being suggested that the solution to this kind of violence is to reform the police departments, making the officers more accountable for their behavior, training officers in conflict resolution and reforming the criminal justice system. This is more than a policing problem. It is also a historical problem about racial injustice. I have not heard a word about reparations being made to black people. Reparations would acknowledge that a mistake was made, and that the perpetrator is ready to atone and make repairs. The word reparation means to repair a perpetrated wrong.
The perpetrated wrongs against black people in this country begins with their enslavement in 1619. In 1865, 246 years later, the slaves were “freed.” After the Civil War Federal forces were sent to the South for 12 years of reconstruction. Things were beginning to turn around for black people, but when the Feds left, the White Southerners introduced Black Codes/Jim Crow, which held in place until the Civil Rights Movements in the 1960’s. Black people have been systemically terrorized by various groups and have been held back through economic, education and social injustices. The US should pay reparations to black people as they did to the Japanese Americans that were interned during WWII. Germany paid reparations to the Jews, and continually educate later generations about the history and reasons for reparations. Racism will not begin to dissolve until it is examined under the light of awareness. The desire to skip over this step is great. It is easier to be able to say things like, ‘I can’t be racist. I do not see color’ or ‘I can’t be racist. I have black friends.’ ‘I can’t be racist. There are black people where I work.’
The can has been kicked down the road as far as it can go. It has fallen apart. Atonement is necessary now. We are the necessary vaccine.We need more light about each other. Light creates understanding, understanding creates love, love creates patience, and patience creates unity.