A truth. Police violence impacts African-Americans more than any other demographic. To answer why, look only to the suffering that African-Americans endured during two centuries of slavery and are still facing now nearly 160 years after emancipation. Whites in authority discriminated against blacks before passing down that authority to more discriminatory whites, who continued passing down authority to more discriminatory whites all the way up to the current occupant of the White House, a well-known racist. That guy, whose name I will no longer say and which has become a curse word in my household, could win the 2020 election unanimously, I’m talking nearly every single popular vote, if he were to come out and simply say, or tweet, “I reject any and all support from white supremacists, and my condolences go out to the black community that has been ravaged by police brutality, and worse, since the first slaves were ripped from their native lands and brought to our shores in 1619.” Just about everyone would vote for him. Perhaps all of those finicky battleground-state schlubs and “independent voters” who got us into this mess in the first place. Even I would begin to entertain him. Even I would begin to listen to him. Understand, I would never vote for Bunker Baby. A little something to do with the two-dozen credible accusations of rape and sexual assault against him and tons of terrible policy decisions. However, I know that since just about everyone in this country has come to accept him as a monster, NBD, just about everyone would vote for him if he denounced white supremacy and acknowledged black America’s pain. That should be the GOP playbook moving forward. Landslide victory and control of the courts for the next four years and beyond would be guaranteed. Simple math. Simple human behavior. Simple simpletons.
We don’t have to worry about any of this because he won’t. Bunker Baby Boy will continue being divisive, continue blowing racist dog whistles from atop Mt. Twitter, and continue being the racist, sexist fool we’ve all come to despise but –– alarmingly –– who we just accept. A change of heart for him is still fun to think about. I actually pray for it. And I know I can’t be the only one.
George Floyd’s murder –– by four police officers, not just one –– and the murders of countless other African-Americans by cops are making all of us, black and white and in between and beyond, as sick as a case of the ’rona. As most whites are clutching their pearls about the looting (“No, not Whole Foods!”), the rest of us are concerned about policing, race relations, and justice moving forward. Black lives are at stake.
Based on a recent analysis by the advocacy group Mapping Police Violence, African-Americans are nearly twice as likely to be killed by cops as a Latinx person and nearly three times more likely to die at the hands of police than a white person. The overall numbers are just as scary. Police kill all kinds of Americans, not just blacks. The next James Scott, Daniel Shaver, Brandon Stanley, or other white person to be murdered by law enforcement could be one of those pearl-clutching school marms pretending to be outraged by the destruction of Whole Foods but really just angry at African-Americans for being born African-American and for not expressing dissatisfaction with the status quo in a polite, calm, quiet manner, because that’s what white people do when they’re rowdy. They’re polite, calm, and quiet. They don’t pile into the streets, turn over cars, and torch them (Denver, 2014) or destroy property, steal shit, and torch buses (San Francisco, 2012) or torch and turn over more cars and destroy property (Vancouver, 2011) or dance on flipped-over cars (New Hampshire, 2014) or just riot over sports or just because (Lexington, 2012; Tennessee, 2012; Happy Valley, 2011; Boston, 2004; the list goes on). They’re civilized, right? Right.
In some cities, Mapping Police Violence found, the rate at which police killed black men was higher than the U.S. murder rate. The group also discovered that little connection between the police killings and violent crime existed. “Some cities with high rates of violent crime have fewer police killings than those with higher violent crime rates,” the group said, “a situation that can make police killings feel wanton and baseless.”
And also unstoppable. Almost as bad as the killings themselves, the stark lack of accountability will ensure that the relationship between cops and the community they have sworn to protect may never improve. From 2014 to 2019, Mapping Police Violence said, 99% of police killings did not result in charges against officers, which also means there were no convictions. Of the 351 accused cops, four were charged. One was convicted. Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray –– no one has been convicted of murder for their deaths. It’s almost like we’re begging for another civil war, like maybe that’s been the plan all along.
I don’t know what to tell my son. All my wife and I are hoping for is that Bunker Baby loses in November and that life goes back to normal before A. starts asking questions. Unlike my wife and me, who are white, A. is black. We adopted him from West Africa when he was a baby. He is 8 now, and he is a good, sweet kid. I mean, the sweetest. Like, alarmingly sweet. Funny story. We mowed the lawn together the other day. He’s been helping me mow since he was able to walk. He would push his little play mower behind me as I would operate the real one. Now that he’s a big, strong little man, he steers and pushes the mower, the actual mower, on his own, with me guiding him, either standing in front to show him the path or beside him to navigate tricky spots. The other day, I let him tackle a few pieces we had missed by the curb out front. The machine fell downhill a little, the blades kerrang-ing against the concrete.
“Let go!” I shouted, rushing toward him.
“I’m sorry!” he said, standing there with one flip-flop on –– the other had come off during the drama. “I didn’t mean it!”
“It’s OK, my man,” I assured him. “No biggie. Just be a little more careful, OK?”
He said OK, and we mowed over our last strip. He mowed over our last strip. I told him I wanted him to finish strong. A few minutes later, as I was parking the mower in the shed in the backyard, A. came over to the machine and started petting it, as if it were a puppy. I thought he was joking. When he looked up, tears were streaming down his cheeks. The poor kid thought he hurt the lawnmower, this inanimate object we use to cut the grass and that we never think about six out of the other seven days of the week. He began sobbing. I told him the newly christened Mowie the Mower was fine, that he was OK, and not to worry about him. A. eventually calmed down. He went inside the house, blew his nose in a tissue, and asked for some water. I told him that his sweetness would always be a positive. I told him that people may make him feel bad for his sweetness or use it against him but that he shouldn’t listen to them.
“I’m telling you now,” I said, “you need to keep that sweetness about you for the rest of your life, and I will make sure that happens.”
My wife and I will do everything we can, until our last breaths, to rage against that dying of the sweetness. We know it won’t be easy. A. goes to play therapy, which is common for kids like him. Deep down in their amygdalas resides a lot of pain. For A., it manifests itself mostly in the form of running out of class or becoming easily frustrated. Mostly. We know the good him, and it’s the good him that we nurture, because there comes a time, an age, when black boys can go from incredibly adorable to potentially threatening. It’s a phenomenon that my wife and I learned about from an African-American woman with two sons.
“The light just drains out of their eyes,” she said, once these beautiful children of God reach a mature age and become constantly judged by adults. And I’m talking about white adults, who bring to their perspective everything they think they know about black men (poor, violent, uneducated –– thanks, pop culture!) instead of everything that colonizers have done to African-Americans since 1619 to perpetuate the cycle of poverty that continues to cripple them. I’m your average white guy, and all I know is that with my temperament and emotional frailties, I would not have survived growing up in the projects. Violence would have taken me early. Maybe at the hands of another gang member. Or maybe a cop.
The Fort Worth protests have been relatively drama-free, unlike in many other cities, except for the skirmish on the 7th Street Bridge Sunday night.
“All my protests on Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday were peaceful,” said Donnell Ballard, a cofounder of United My Justice, the group organizing the marches.
After a 30-minute standoff, in which peace officers fired tear gas and smoke bombs to disperse the large crowd trying to cross, Ballard asked protesters to return downtown to the Tarrant County Courthouse, Ground Zero for all of the marches. “I told my protesters, ‘Let’s go. We made our statement.’ ”
Some protesters weren’t budging. “Some of the others didn’t want to leave and stayed there,” he said.
One was later arrested.
United My Justice will continue to protest downtown but will not try to cross the bridge again, Ballard said. The protests will continue for the foreseeable future.
As I am writing this on Tuesday afternoon, Monday night by the courthouse came close to exploding. That’s because SWAT was called in mistakenly. If you’ve ever been to a protest, the sight of heavily armed police in riot gear is unsettling. It criminalizes and dehumanizes you instantly, as if all you had to do was look at one of those cops wrong and your life –– this precious corporeal vessel full of love, hopes, dreams, memories, hopefully delicious food, mostly bad gas –– would end. Just like that. Thankfully, Police Chief Ed Kraus and Assistant Chief Julie Swearingin stepped forward and knelt in front of the courthouse steps. The top cops began to pray with some of the marchers. The Star-Telegram said Kraus told the departing crowd, “You just showed the nation how to do it.”
I’m as angry as everyone else –– everyone who isn’t a racist –– about the deadly relationship between police and the black community in this country. I also need to say that I’m offended when I see people who share my anger make the demonstrably false claim that all cops are racist. It’s not only unprovable but hurtful to any sort of truce between the people trained to protect us and the unarmed African-Americans who come across police. It’s making it worse. The Fort Worth cops haven’t been the only ones kneeling with protestors. It’s happening all over the country. Please stop saying they’re all racists. It’s ignorant. And it’s offensive to me.
One of the nicest, sweetest (white, male) kids from my old neighborhood back up north became a cop, and while we’ll never know what Officer Paul Sciullo would have thought of Floyd’s killers –– my friend was gunned down by a deranged white man along with two other Pittsburgh cops, Eric Kelly and Stephen Mayhle, in 2009 –– I would like to believe that Paulie would have been the first in line to punch Floyd’s killers square in the face. Paul was not a racist –– I’m still best friends with his best friend, who was also his cousin –– and when you say all cops hate minorities, you’re saying that my dear friend did, and if you know me at all, you’re not going to want to say that to my face. Paul was one of many good cops. There are lots of them.
I understand there is no limit to the anger we all feel watching some MAGAt and three of his offensively gutless fellow officers kill an unarmed black man over a minor infraction, especially when George Floyd is just another unarmed black man in a long line of them whose life was cut short by a cop. The layers of pain are almost too much to bear. The white, racist cops do not realize that when they see yet another black man accused of yet another crime they are looking at centuries of oppression manifest in the form of one person instead of just another criminal who clearly doesn’t know right from wrong, whose sense of criminality must be inherited, genetic. The reason armed whites can take over government buildings (and barbershops) and scream and spit in cops’ faces is that cops have been trained by colonialism to accept white faces as responsible and reasonable and that black or brown (or red or yellow) ones are in need of the crushing heel of authority, are in need of being placed in the Other category.
I see abstract racism all the time. My beloved oldest brother is not a racist. Lenny has worked with and befriended and promoted black people his entire fruitful life. He has never said the n-word, and he never would. He is a nice, smart, and (he would want me to say) “handsome” guy, one of the nicest on the planet. There’s only one reason I can think of that he’s a Trumpanzee, because he is. It can’t be because my upstanding brother actually likes that orange stain. No one can. DT is a naturally repulsive know-it-all jackass who squandered all the millions he inherited from his KKK-loving father on failed business deals and whose only contribution to the history books will be the dismantling of democracy itself. I also would like to think my brother wouldn’t let any of his three adult daughters be caught alone in a room with that creep. The only thing I can think of is abortion. As I’ve told my brother millions of times, “You would vote for Hitler if he were the only pro-life candidate.” Being pro-life –– more like “pro-fetus,” because I doubt my brother is anti-death penalty –– is the one line item that seems to determine every vote Lenny casts. He has also said that abortion is the greatest genocide in the history of mankind. Since he’s pretty interested in economics, I’ve been meaning to ask him who’s going to pay for: A.) taking care of pregnant women until they’re able to give birth, B.) arresting and prosecuting women who refuse to carry their pregnancies to term, and C.) taking care of the babies after the women are forced to give birth. I haven’t gotten around to it. Too much reality to deal with.
I’ve made the sensible argument before: Why not Mike Pence? An honest-to-goodness Republican and actual Christian who actually goes to church and actually believes in the word of God? I never heard an answer. Or a straight answer. Trumpanzees have a way of deflecting questions. “What about her emails?” “What about Benghazi?” “What about Grandpa Joe sniffing girls’ hair?” All just a smokescreen to distract from the hard truths. Now that smokescreen is made of actual smoke and the truths are fighting for justice.
I’m not one of them. I’m sort of ashamed to admit it. The extent of my protest now is wearing a mask in public. I’ve been waiting for an affront, waiting for one of the many conservatives around whom I live to shoot at me one o’ dem dere Fox News talkin’ points: “You know that won’t protect you from getting sick?,” “You know the flu kills more people every year?,” “You know it’s all a deep state ploy to destroy business?” My dream, one of my dreams (I have many), is simply to angrily reply, “I’m not wearing this mask to protect me, moron. I’m wearing it to keep me from getting you sick, though since you’re such a self-centered dotard, I’d be happy to cough in your face if it’s all such a hoax.”
We have heard from some friends and family members about the riots and my family’s contextual place in them. Not many but some. I still don’t know what to tell A. I’ve thought about bringing it up with him. I’ve thought about telling my son that, hey, maybe your best friend, whose parents we adore, maybe they don’t agree with us. Maybe they think black people should protest and feel anger and pain in some kind of polite, scripted way, handed down from Jesus himself or something. I still can’t burden my sweet kid with more sadness, knowing how sensitive he is and how fucked his generation of black boys also is. He would not know what to make of a protest. He does not need to come in close contact with the kind of existential dread that follows people who look like him. Not yet. Please, not yet.
As the father of a black boy, I believe there are some statements I’m allowed to make, no offense to any demographic, but since this is my party, I have to do the talking. The biggest to me is that you guys need to stop saying, “All lives matter.” We all know that when you tweet or post that, you’re simply trying to give the middle finger to African-Americans, who created the similarly titled Black Lives Matter as a response to the systemic, institutional injustice perpetually visited upon black people. We all know that “all lives matter” is just another racist dog whistle. All lives indeed matter, of course they do, but not all lives are being killed by police seemingly every month or have been the victims of racism and injustice since 1619. Saying “all lives matter” unironically is one of the richest, most irritating forms of white privilege there is, usually typed or spoken from the cozy confines of a nice house in a comfy white neighborhood. Or a trailer park in the sticks.
“All lives matter” is not the only phrase you can stop saying. You can also STFU about looters and Antifa, a nonexistent group that’s just a boogeyman whipped up by right-wing talking heads to scare white America. I went off on my mother, my dear, sweet mother, the other day after she sent me a voice text (her vision is pretty bad) to share her pain and confusion. My poor, sweet mom spent two minutes talking about the looters and Antifa before even mentioning George Floyd’s name. I wrote her back in a certain way, primarily to help her be able to read the message but also, I admit, to help me release some of my pent-up anger: “IT TOOK YOU TWO MINUTES TO MENTION GEORGE FLOYD. I DONT WANT TO HEAR ABOUT ANTIFA. THEY ARE NOBODIES WHO RIGHT-WING ASSHOLES TRY TO PIN FOR CRIMES. WHAT I WANT TO HEAR ABOUT ARE THE WHITE SUPREMACISTS IN BLUE AND THE WHITE SUPREMACIST IN THE WHITE HOUSE WHO SUPPORTS THEM. END OF DISCUSSION. THANK YOU FOR CALLING.”
I’ve seen some posts on social media to the effect of “You see dem dang protestors? They’re makin’ things worse!”
My untyped, unsent response that I’m sharing now: It’s not the protestors. It’s the bad apples warping the protestors’ mission. Sort of like the bad-apple cops who keep murdering citizens. Does that make all cops bad? Criminals are opportunists. With the police preoccupied and with anonymity almost guaranteed, criminals can infiltrate peaceful protests and indeed make things worse. There’s also a well-documented effort among white nationalists to stir up trouble under the guise of protesting.
I can also understand the hot desire to just break shit. Now as two recent presidential elections have proved –– when two candidates who won the popular vote lost the election –– late capitalism has won. Our voices at the ballot box don’t matter. The only voices we have are as consumers. We’re going to boycott your shitty business and, if we happen to be walking past your storefront during a march for justice, maybe even take out one of your windows. That’s how controlled we’ve become, all of us –– black, white, red, brown, yellow, all mixed –– by corporate forces.
I don’t know if peaceful protesting is intrinsically good or bad, but I’m going to go with saying it’s good. Looting is a bad look, even though it’s centuries of oppression breaking the windows, spray-painting the bridges, and stealing the Gatorades rather than genetically predisposed knuckleheads who weren’t raised right. I wish the cops could see that. I know some do.