Columnist J.M. Sorrell: Same old normal for white supremacy

  • A police car burns, left rear, after being set on fire in Boston, Sunday, following a march and gathering to protest the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.  AP

Published: 6/2/2020 3:10:17 PM

Racism is alive and well. White people in power and in ordinary circumstances continue to exploit their privilege to the detriment or death of people of color. Specific violence against African-American men and women has been justified and validated since the white ruling class formed what is called the United States. Racism is not taking a break in the midst of our public health catastrophe. The old normal prevails with deadly results.

Breonna Taylor was a brave, emergency room technician and an award-winning emergency medical technician in Louisville, Kentucky. She was shot down by police who raided her home — the wrong one — to catch a drug dealer who had already been arrested. George Floyd was killed in plain view of people who begged the police officer to take his knee off of him as he was choking to death in Minneapolis. Christian Cooper asked a white woman to leash her dog in New York’s Central Park, and she created a hysterical drama as she called the police to rescue her from this dangerous black man (a Harvard-educated bird nerd). Ahmaud Arbery had the audacity to jog in suburban Brunswick, Georgia. Two white men hunted him down and shot him dead. And they remained free until public pressure demanded more.

The mostly white, often armed Confederate flag-waving, non-masking wearing protestors who are insisting that all businesses open for their enjoyment are the very reason why it remains unsafe to be in public. They give the middle finger to health care workers and front line store staff who are begging us to wear masks and to stay home when possible. In white America, they are not arrested or threatened for jeopardizing and potentially killing innocent people they come in contact with through their irresponsible behavior. It is their God-given right to do whatever they want when they want with absolute impunity.

By contrast, when African-Americans and their allies protest the cruel murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, they are met with tear gas and rubber bullets by the police and the National Guard is called in to control them. A protestor with a Black Lives Matter sign was hauled off in a paddy wagon in New York City. Protestors were shot in Louisville, and the predator-in-chief tweets, “If they loot, we shoot!” He calls them thugs. He calls the machine-gun wielding bigots heroes as they threaten the life of the Michigan governor because they want their bars and restaurants open. He embodies the arrogance and violent intention of pernicious xenophobia and racism. And he is the person in charge of our country.

The acts of vandalism and setting fires are expressions of anger over accumulative and deadly wrongs. While benign responses may be more palatable to many Americans, this is very much a moment where black protesters and allies are responding to violent, systemic racism that is rarely met with justice. They live in a world where existing while being black puts them in jeopardy every day. The real thugs are the white ruling class, collaborators and bystanders who see no moral imperative to demand the end of all forms of racism.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinx and African-American people are disproportionately infected as they are more likely to be working in risky, low-paying jobs, to have poor or no health insurance, and to have compromised immune systems as they live in areas with toxic exposure as a result of environmental racism. In Chicago, blacks account for 75% of the deaths but only comprise one-third of the population. Similar statistics for brown and black people abound nationally. Navajo and Hopi people are dying at heartbreaking rates. And anyone perceived to be Asian is at risk for being one of the over 100 recipients of violent incidents per day directed at them for potentially being Chinese and somehow causing the virus as the fascist orange monster encourages such xenophobia.

We have an opportunity for societal transformation as disparities and injustices are laid bare. We should not squander it. James Baldwin wrote, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Racism is the construct and legacy of white people to face and to change. Anti-racist thought and action are necessary. Black lives matter.

J.M. Sorrell is a social justice activist and a health care advocate. She implores people to mask up and to keep ten feet of physical distance (since six feet seems to be two feet) so that each person can feel safer in public spaces. This includes people in cars with open windows, walkers and bicyclists. Let’s keep our germs to ourselves as a matter of life and death.

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