“If America hasn’t broken your heart, you don’t love her enough.”
That was something Cory Booker said this morning. I know what he meant.
“I can’t breathe!” The chants in cities across the nation cut deeply across our consciousness. We are in a crisis of our own making. The pain and the cost of the racism 40 million of our citizens must face every day is real. And that’s just in the Black community. There are others… Latino, Asian… the name doesn’t matter. The color of their skin sets them apart in our nation, it can put them at risk, it can spark bias and discrimination those of us who are white will never know.
It’s a tough morning. It’s gorgeous outside but I’m struggling like all of us to make sense of what is happening on the streets in cities across our nation.
But some aren’t trying to make sense of things. They are instead seeking to exploit these moments and to translate their fear and hatred into violent actions. Their actions have nothing to do with George Floyd.
White men, dressed in black, moving silently and with purpose through the crowds to smash windows, to set fires and to fuel chaos. Other white men, heavily armed, threatening, intimidating men and women of all communities. The symbols of white supremacist organizations and of the radical right have been seen and filmed. There’s more than enough evidence already showing that some of those on the streets are deliberately attacking black and minority owned businesses. It’s ugly. It’s frightening.
I struggle not to rush to judgment. We don’t really KNOW yet what is happening and who the actors are. I believe that there are those on the left, the anarchist ANTIFA forces, who are irresponsible and dangerous and who may be on the streets adding to the problems. But I also believe it’s not just them, no matter what the White House asserts. If ANTIFA is there, so are the Three Percenters and the Boogaloo Bois and other right wing extremists.
They are just as destructive and when it comes to government and attacks on symbols of authority. They actively seek to accelerate our movement towards what they believe is an impending civil war and, eventually, the collapse of our society.
But they go beyond anarchism with an agenda of frightening racism and toxic hatred directed not just against government, but against men and women whose skin color, or faith, or beliefs are different than their own. It is white privilege on steroids. Anarchist violence, no matter the perpetrators, must be stopped. This violence puts our nation, our society, our future, at risk whether from the Boogaloo Bois or ANTIFA.
But the right wing extremists scare me and disgust me to my core. They are why George Floyd can be murdered, why Ahmaud Arbery can be murdered, why Michael Brown can be gunned down, why Eric Garner can be killed in a police choke hold. There is part of our society who applaud rather than feel outrage. And that is our shame.
We cannot, however, let these groups, and the need to respond to them, lead us to forget the legitimate concerns about racial and economic and social injustice that George Floyd’s death once again highlights. And we cannot let this be politicized. But that, sadly, has already begun.
Trump attacks the “Democratic” mayor of Minneapolis. Emphasizing his party every time he tweets about him. That’s political.
The President tweeted, “It’s ANTIFA and the Radical Left. Don’t lay the blame on others.” That’s political. It’s for his base.
The U.S. Attorney General has sounded alarm about a threat from ANTIFA anarchists, but is silent on the right wing hate groups who are also there. That’s political.
The National Security Advisor is only focused on ANTIFA as well. They all fall in line with the President.
And, if you’re a Trump surrogate, you avoid talking about or criticizing the white supremacists or Neo Nazis — “those very good people” who brought us Charlottesville.
Our nation is in trouble. And this isn’t the time to divide us. It’s the time to unite us. But we won’t get that from this White House and particularly not in an election year.
I don’t know where this ends. And, even more troubling, this latest tragedy and trauma comes while we are in the midst of a pandemic. And make no mistake, the pandemic isn’t taking a pause while we respond. We’re taking our eye off that ball too. The Atlanta mayor said she hasn’t looked at the corona numbers over the last two days. That doesn’t bode well either.
We can hope that the violence will end — and it likely will (though I think of the sustained yellow jacket protests in France and I wonder). But I worry that, as it does, we’ll just go back to business as usual. We won’t change. And the problems will then fester and erupt once more. And that’s the problem. We NEED to change. That change won’t come overnight but, unless this becomes a focused and determined effort for both our citizens and our leaders, this will happen again and again until we break. We need to understand this, I think, and to commit ourselves to the change that must come.
Stay strong, stay safe, stay healthy.