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The four cops involved in George Floyd’s death would be patrolling the streets today, if not for that video. The ruthless thugs that murdered Ahmaud Arbery continued their lives uninterrupted for two months, until the video. There is no justice or genuine concern about Black people in America, there is only the possibility of blatant lawlessness caught on camera, which might shame public officials (begrudgingly) into action. The narrative is predictable and tired, as is the response of Black people. Appeals to the nation’s “conscience” and for justice are sadly misguided, Black power is the only meaningful answer.
No one can oppress you, unless you give them the money to do it. The issue here is power. Power, roughly defined, is the ability to determine one’s course and defend one’s own interests. The U.S. drops bombs on weaker nations with little thought because those nations have no power. On the other hand, many nations loathe the United States but dare not send drones to Washington; not out of admiration but fear. In the final analysis, whether Floyd or Arbery’s death is followed with a prosecution or not, holding individuals responsible will change little. Indeed, the very notion of Black America holding its breath, waiting for “justice,” simply illustrates the larger point: Black people are constantly appealing to more powerful, oppressive forces, to be more benevolent. That is a losing strategy.
Too many protest police brutality, then gladly deposit their dollars into multinational banks, who built capital through the slave trade and invest heavily in a racist prison industry. Anger is fueled by an unjust criminal justice system and yet Black people continue to allow political actors– funded by corporate interests that are empowered by Black dollars– to guard the status quo. There’s outrage when city and state officials display their racism but few contribute to political campaigns so as to allow those who seek true justice to unseat those who guard oppression. Black people must reroute the energy, anger and social media posts about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, into meaningful action that will shift the position of Black people in American society. That action must be immediate and sustained over time, there is no other way.
In the aftermath of Michael Brown’s murder I said to my mother, “I’ve never asked you this but you have three boys, did you ever worry about us?” She said, to my utter shock, “No, I didn’t.” I had to ask her why not, of course. My mother, fully aware of what was happening, said, “Because things are so much better now.” Her point wasn’t that things were great in 2014 but that they were so much worse, in the 1970s. In other words, none of this is new and sadly, the predictable responses of Black people do little to change their collective position in America. Protest is fine but if you leave the protest to buy a cup of Starbucks, a shirt at Target or hit up a Wells Fargo ATM, what is the net result? If the same leaders stay in power on the local, state and federal levels, what does a single prosecution of an individual truly mean? It’s time to seize power and turn our collective anger into a productive rage against white supremacy. It doesn’t take an argument, it will come simply by banking, investing and spending in ways that foster Black power.
Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd.