It’s not about George Floyd…

It’s not about George Floyd… May 30, 2020

For those who can’t understand why the entire nation is violently protesting the death of one man—they aren’t.

For those who believe the protestors are wildly off message—perhaps you should rethink your perception of what that message is.

For those who don’t understand why so much rage is turned toward businesses who had nothing to do with George Floyd’s death—perhaps you misunderstand complicity.

. . .

I have thought long and hard about whether or not I should write this post. People of color do not need me to speak for them. The rage they feel is not the same as the rage I feel. When the police retaliate, or when the economic consequences of the riots become clear, it will not be me who suffers.

But it has become clear to me over the past few few days that even though people of color are speaking elegantly and articulately in plain English over and over again, my white friends are not listening.

 So here I am, signal boosting. Or reframing. Or using my privilege for good. Here I am, speaking out in the spirit of “white people come get your own.” And I’m begging you to listen.

. . .

We live in a time that police, or ex police, or neighborhood watch, or anyone who feels like it can execute an unarmed black person anytime they like and get away with it simply because they claim they feared him.

They may be right that they feel fear, but when it’s a teenager jogging, or woman sleeping in her bed, or a man who is already handcuffed and on the ground with four cops around him—it is clear that what these people fear is blackness itself. And that’s something nobody can, or should, just remove to make white people feel safer.

White people offer all sorts of solutions in their armchair racial quarterbacking. Comply. Vote. Find a way to protest that is not violent. But black men who comply still get shot. Black men who vote still get shot. Black men who protest still get shot.

One commenter on a previous post of mine has suggested they should all just “hide,” because to her black skin is a liability, and black freedom is less important than Target’s or Autozone’s property rights.

The fact is these “solutions” just don’t work. And aren’t designed to work. Who should someone against police violence and racial profiling vote for when the openly racist incumbent is calling for “shooting,” and the only challenger is a former segregationist who is proud of his work on the 1994 Crime Bill? How long should they protest nonviolently when doing it alone cost Kaepernick his career and doing it in groups gets you tear gassed?

And what about white conservatives, who are allowed exactly the same protests black people are denied, only armed and openly threatening?

. . .

But of course, the violence done to George Floyd is only half of the story. If the harm in this situation were limited to just the police state, then it would be reasonable to protest just the police state. But think about this—how many of you live under economic oppression so extreme that you are forced to (allegedly) use a counterfeit twenty dollar bill just to steal groceries?

These protests are not just violence returning physical violence. They are also violence returning economic violence, returning social violence, returning generational spiritual violence.

So when the protestors come to Minneapolis, and they see a Target that took millions of local tax dollars from the community as incentives to locate there, shutting down locally owned businesses in the process, then laid off hundreds of local workers in return; or when they see diamonds and gold watches, the totems of capitalist success, staring at them from a jewelry store window; or when they see block upon block of businesses just like the one that called the police on George Floyd—what do you expect them to do?

. . .

Of course, there are innocent bystanders in all this. I mourn, for example, the damage done to Migizi Communications, an anchor of the native community, and will contribute to its repair. But BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color) people understand that this is inevitable, and that the protests were still just. In fact, at the time of this writing, Migizi has already raised more than $100,000 in renovation funds—largely from the same people who protested—and will be able to come back stronger than ever.

For those of you protesting—I support you. And in many ways I believe I understand you. For those of you not protesting—if you’ve read this far, you must have at least some interest. If you want to go farther, the best and only path is to start listening to black voices on police violence. Maybe start here:


About Jim Coppoc
Jim Coppoc is a seminarian and columnist with longstanding connections to the Twin Cities and to social justice. You can read more about the author here.
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