As a middle to upper class black woman who happens to be a physician, I find it hard to defend the actions of destroying unrelated businesses and property because I too, have my own medical practice in a building that I used to deliver care to patients. If it were to be damaged, more than just me would be affected because patient care would be affected as well. However, my "business" is just that. A business with insurance, etc so the building and things could be replaced if needed. We will never be able to get back the human life that was lost to police brutality and 95% of police brutality cases get dismissed or they are acquitted. From another angle, I feel like riots are a last resort to not being heard. When black people have tried to peacefully protest whether in public or in a sports-related setting, they have been insulted and ridiculed, particularly by those who don't look like them.
Colin Kaepernick is a great example of this. He wanted to peacefully protest police brutality by sitting during the national anthem. Some may not know this but after he met with an Army Veteran who actually told him that it would be more respectful to kneel rather than sit down, he started to kneel instead out of respect for our military. Our President called him a Son of a "B!tch". Another example includes Lebron James who wore a shirt stating, "I can't breathe" during NBA game warmups after Eric Garner's murder for some loose cigarettes and people told him to "stay in his lane" and to "just play basketball."
This may be uncomfortable for some but you deserve to know. The military started being recognized during professional sporting games after 9/11 and in a report done by the Department of Defense, between 2012-2015, professional sports teams were paid over 53 million dollars to promote our military. Examples include for services that included showing a soldier returning home, honoring certain members of the military and the establishments of military appreciation events. By no means of my discounting the fact that recognizing and honoring the military is important, but kneeling during a song should not be equated with not caring about your country or about disrespecting the military. I have a few patients who are Army veterans and they have undergone major trauma. Some of them have told me stories about other vets being homeless when they come home or not having access to the care or resources that they need. Without truly supporting our veterans by putting our money where our mouths are, standing during the national anthem appears to be simply a show. I will also mention how stadiums don't stop conducting business or letting fans into the stadium during the anthem and no one seems to stand when watching the superbowl at bars.
While I saw a slew of opinions about the above examples "not being the way to protest", I have yet to see a solution to getting our voices heard as Black Americans in this country. Contrary to how Martin Luther King Jr. is being referenced today in efforts by nonblacks to cite peace, 75% of our country did not approve him in 1963. Let that sink in for a moment. He was touted to be the "opposite" of Malcolm X and was still murdered by a white man who was most likely in a conspiracy with our government to silence his message. So as it turns out, his peaceful protests didn't truly change anything while he was alive. However, the night that he was killed, riots ensued all over the country. If you name it, it probably happened. No shorter than a week later, this Civil Rights act went into effect. Similar to the murder of George Floyd, it took days of protests with a night of riots to finally get his murderer arrested.
The question then becomes, why does it take this much to get justice? Why weren't all four police officers arrested immediately when the video footage was released? Why was only one officer arrested? Why was there no accountability until the pressure mounted from both organized grassroots campaigns organized by people like Shaun King and protests that turned into riots? Why have we called in the national guard instead of arresting the other three officers? Why are we not making changes to our police training manuals or HR policies? Why haven't there been emergency sessions of state legislatures or city councils with action plans for making change? It is very important to not forget the why.
When you get a chance, look up something called qualified immunity that has been in place since 1982, which protects law enforcement and other officials from being sued for official actions. It appears that this will be heard by the Supreme Court. I think that this will be a very important decision that will shape the trajectory in which our country deals with race relations.
Once again, I don't condone damaging random businesses and cars during riots but I do understand how disenfranchised communities, particularly Black-Americans, feel because to the naked eye, it seems like their lives do not matter nearly as much as disrupting the economy. Especially if you found yourself ignoring the death of yet another unarmed black man but quick to post about riots that you don't condone. It is okay to be upset with both. I would also encourage you to watch city and police press conferences and even up to date social media pages for accurate updates before allowing certain news channels that are counting on your emotions to lead you to believe that all of the protests are violent. I have been to many protests and none of them have been violent. As of last night, the chief of police in Minneapolis reported that they arrested over 20 people and most of them were from out of town. Could they have been plants to incite violence? No way to tell until we hear more.
If you find yourself on the fence about being more concerned about insured businesses versus George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery or Breonna Taylor's lives, rechannel that energy to be sure that you are upset about both the cause AND the action.
Here is a link to some outcomes in notable police brutality cases for your reading pleasure:
Looking forward to discussing this more next Saturday.
Dr. Jessica Edwards