Violence Begets Violence
My friend uttered those words to me today. Violence begets violence. Of course, she was talking about the protests that have sprung up all over the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd. In case you’ve been living under a rock, he was killed by former Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin. Chauvin kneeled on the back of Mr. Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes while he begged for his life, his dead mama, and exclaimed repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.” I can’t breathe!!! None of those words prompted this police officer, nor the three other officers that stood by and watched to stand up and allow Mr. Floyd to breathe.
The officers were promptly fired as this viral video spread across the globe. Ultimately, Derek Chauvin was finally arrested for third-degree murder and manslaughter. Yet, not before protests broke out in Minneapolis and a black/Hispanic reporter for CNN was arrested on-air while complying with police.
And from there, the protests grew. They are happening in every major city in the US. Police in riot gear met each and every protest, peaceful or otherwise. Video upon video of police brutality, over-reach, and disregard for human life found it’s way to the internet. In NYC, a police car rammed into a crowd of protesters, in Salt Lake City an elderly man with a cane walking along the sidewalk was pushed to the ground for unknown reasons, another officer helped him to his feet. In Minneapolis, people were shot with paint guns for the crime of sitting on their own front porch while tanks and the national guard rolled through their residential neighborhood! In Seattle, a child was pepper-sprayed in the face.
And while we watch as the National Guard rolls into the cities nationwide, while the police come out in full force with riot gear to subdue people who are holding peaceful vigils for a black man that was killed by one of their own, we must continue to wonder where the National Guard was while white supremacist stood on the steps of state capital buildings armed with semi-automatic rifles and scared state legislators into closing. Where was the national guard when white people protested stay at home orders to keep the country safe because they wanted to get a haircut or eat out at a restaurant by blocking the ambulance bay of a hospital? Why do we only call out the national guard when people of color peacefully protest the infringement of their lands, their burial grounds, their water, their freedom, their safety, and their very lives?? Why are the human rights of people of color any less important than the supposed freedom of white people?
These riots are not new; they’ve been simmering on the back burner for decades. People rise up, and the government gives them a token. They go back to their lives until the next person is killed. People rise up and are given a token, lather, rinse, repeat. It’s time for real, fundamental change. Tokens aren’t going to cut it anymore.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that normal is no longer normal. We must be bold, we must be brave, and we must stand for kindness. We need to stand up to the bullies, we need to teach our children to love each other, no matter their color, sexual orientation, or religion. We need to learn to co-exist as one species and stop letting nationalism, hatred, jealousy, and greed separate us.
If we can take away anything from this last week, it’s not that violence begets violence, but challenging the status quo begets violence. We need to pave a new future where the status quo equals human rights and social equality and not more money for the rich.