ACAB Explained: Part Two

Letter to the Editor. "Hands up, don’t shoot. I can’t breathe. Don’t kill me."

Police+mace+protestors+sitting+down+holding+a+Black+Lives+Matter+sign.

Independent.co.uk

Police mace protestors sitting down holding a Black Lives Matter sign.

In the previous part of ACAB Explained, each part of the corruption within the police system was dissected; now, further effects of that corruption will be examined, as well as recent events surrounding George Floyd’s murder. 

It is inarguable that black people are harmed more by police brutality than white people. While some point out that more white people are killed at the hands of the police than black people, the issue is that black people are being killed disproportionately. Despite making up only 13%  of the population, 24% of the 1,099 killed by police in 2019 were black. Black people are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, and unarmed black Americans are five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer, according to the Washington Post.

If you are white, it is harder to admit that when you were learning to ask a cop for help if you got lost, your black peers were being taught how to keep their hands visible when met with the barrel of a gun. Don’t shoot. It is harder to admit that the system the government has told us to trust is broken–or maybe it has always been designed to oppress people of color.”

This brings us back to George Floyd, yet another black, unarmed, innocent man who died at the hands of police officers. It is not enough to just acknowledge the injustice of his death. A widely circulated video of the murder clearly shows its gruesomeness. Instagram stories are filled with calls for justice. There is an immense social pressure to repost a picture, to type out a hashtag. Those things are easy, and they are not enough. If you are white, it is harder to admit that when you were learning to ask a cop for help if you got lost, your black peers were being taught how to keep their hands visible when met with the barrel of a gun. Don’t shoot. It is harder to admit that the system the government has told us to trust is broken–or maybe it has always been designed to oppress people of color. Real change comes by educating yourself about how truly corrupt this system is and what you can do to help dismantle it. Sign petitions, donate to reputable charities for protestors and victims’ families, contact lawmakers, read and watch media made by people of color.

The recent protests in Minneapolis and other cities across the country have led many to cry out about the actions of protestors, such as burning down buildings and looting local businesses. But many people demanding peaceful protests have also turned a blind eye to the system that has once again shown how capable it is of silencing black voices. The fires burning and police in riot gear may be captivating to look at, but it is harder to visualize the violence committed against generations of people of color. It is a privilege to demand peaceful protest when members of your community are not the ones being killed, when you do not understand the frustration of not being heard. After centuries of oppression, the destruction of a few city blocks is not the thing to be angry about. Property can be replaced; lives cannot. Violence is not the answer only when both sides adhere to that rule; black people should not be ordered to stand up peacefully against a violent system that has done nothing but abuse them. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: “I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots.” Black liberation should not be tailored to white comfort. 

Black liberation should not be tailored to white comfort. ”

But keep in mind that the vast majority of protestors have chosen not to be violent. There have been white anarchists hijacking protests, damaging property and causing chaos, and some people have been taking advantage of the chaos by looting stores. These people, who are committing senseless acts of violence and destruction that do not help to bring justice, do not represent the cause. In addition, countless videos taken in Minneapolis and cities across the country show violence routinely started by the cops, not protestors, with officers tear gassing and macing people who are just standing, sitting, or walking (a nine-year-old girl was pepper sprayed by an officer in Seattle), tasing people, attempting to run people over with their cars, firing rubber bullets into peaceful crowds (a 14 year old boy was hit in the head with a rubber bullet and rushed to the hospital in Sacramento), punching and kicking protestors to the ground, and arresting protesters exercising their first amendment rights to free speech and assembly. This is almost always unprovoked, done to crowds of people not committing any crimes. If you are angry about the riots becoming violent, you should be angry at the law enforcement who spark and perpetuate this violence. Even now, many police officers know the power they hold, and they continue to abuse it.

If you are angry about the riots becoming violent, you should be angry at the law enforcement who spark and perpetuate this violence. Even now, many police officers know the power they hold, and they continue to abuse it.”

Many white people have the privilege of feeling that these recent events are a shock. With the widely publicized deaths of three black Americans in just a few weeks, as well as videos and images spreading of dystopian-like protest scenes, the world feels much more chaotic than it did even six months ago. But communities of color have suffered from this systemic injustice since the country’s founding. This is not a shock to them. There are not suddenly more names, more deaths; white people are becoming more aware of the problem that black Americans have not had the privilege of ignoring. 

Activism, largely on social media, brought justice to Ahmaud Arbery’s killers, and hopefully George Floyd’s killers will all be held accountable in the same manner. We should not have to protest across the country every time someone is killed in order to get due process, yet this is what it has come to. The dystopia should not be recognized in the videos of Minneapolis filled with fire and chaos; it should be acknowledged in the communities that have suffered for hundreds of years under a justice system that lacks justice. 

Once again, I feel the need to clarify that this article is not calling all cops murderers or criminals. ACAB criticizes the system that every single officer operates within, whether they volunteer at homeless shelters on the weekends or attend KKK rallies. The current policing system makes it incredibly difficult to be a “good cop,” and it rewards “bad cops” for unacceptable behavior. 

A badge should not be a license to kill.”

Before you go to comment on this article or message me to say how disrespectful it is, that police officers serve their country and put their lives on the line every day, take a moment to think about the 1,252 black people who have been shot and killed by police since the beginning of 2015 (and remember that that number is only those shot and killed, not those non fatally shot, falsely arrested or searched, beaten, tased, harassed, sexually assaulted, or mentally traumatized). If you continue to defend the current system, if you stay silent, if you demand peaceful protests, your privilege is showing. A badge should not be a license to kill. A murder should not be punished with administrative leave. Black people should not have to hold up signs saying “stop killing us.” If we are on the verge of a revolution, it is long overdue. Make sure you don’t end up on the wrong side of history.