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Monday, June 15, 2020

Opinion | An Insatiable Rage - The New York Times

Protesters gathered in Manhattan in support of Black Lives Matter last month.

"In the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the massive wave of protests that have swept the country and the world, New York State on Friday passed a package of policing reforms, banning chokeholds and opening police disciplinary records, among other things.

After signing the bills into law, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said at one of his coronavirus news conferences: “You don’t need to protest, you won. You accomplished your goal. Society says you’re right, the police need systemic reform.”
Cuomo’s statement betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of this moment.
Yes, the package of bills he signed, and the steps being taken in other cities and states, represent movement in the right direction on the issue of policing, but people aren’t only in the streets because of a single killing or a single issue.
People are marching as a way of screaming, a way of exhaling pain, as an enormous group catharsis.
This isn’t only about the pain of police brutality, it’s about all the pain. This is about all the injustice and disrespect and oppression. This is about ancestry and progeny.
In fact, with every word of solidarity, with every overture by governments and companies, with every new law passed or reform instituted, the cry draws strength, because these actions are all acknowledgment that those in pain have been right all along, that all of their heretofore unheard and unheeded protestations had been wrongfully ignored.
People are in the streets because their backs have too long borne the weight of racism, or because for too long they have averted their eyes from it.
Black people are saying: “See me! See what you have done to me and continue to do to me. Stand naked in your sin, and stare, unflinching, at your reflection. You did this.”
They are saying, “Stop killing us!”
And in that, they mean killing in every conceivable way.
Stop underfunding schools and overfunding police. Stop anti-black bias in all fields, from medicine to employment to entertainment. Stop using 911 calls as a deadly weapon. America, just stop.
And, contrary to what Cuomo might have thought, his package of bills represents a win in only one battle in a larger war.
It took centuries for America to hone its instruments of oppression. Every time part of it fell, it simply re-emerged in a more elegant form.
After slavery was abolished, the black codes were instituted, keeping many restrictions that slavery had enforced and guaranteeing that black people would continue to exist as a cheap source of labor.
After Reconstruction was allowed to fail, Southern states rushed to rewrite their constitutions to institute and codify white supremacy, ushering in Jim Crow.
For instance, at the Louisiana constitutional convention in 1898, Thomas J. Semmes stated that the “mission” of the delegates had been “to establish the supremacy of the white race in this state.” In his closing remarks, E.B. Kruttschnitt, the president of that convention, bemoaned that the delegates had been constrained by the 15th Amendment such that they could not provide “universal white manhood suffrage and the exclusion from the suffrage of every man with a trace of African blood in his veins.”
He went on to proclaim:
“I say to you, that we can appeal to the conscience of the nation, both judicial and legislative, and I don’t believe that they will take the responsibility of striking down the system which we have reared in order to protect the purity of the ballot box and to perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo–Saxon race in Louisiana.”
This wretched language repeated itself, in some form, at other conventions.
Terror became a tool to keep black people underfoot. Confederate monuments sprang up everywhere, the Ku Klux Klan flourished and lynchings surged.
After the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mass incarceration began its climb, accomplishing many of the same things Jim Crow did before — voter disenfranchisement, employment and housing restrictions, and just overall punishment and disrespect.
Racial oppression is infinitely transmutable.
So people are in the streets because they are tired of chopping heads off the hydra. They are tired of fighting this oppression only to see it spring right back, or multiply.
It is exhausting and infuriating and maddening to be forced to fight, always, for what for others is free. It enrages, when you realize that you’re still fighting the same fight that your parents fought, and that their parents fought.
It is an everyday struggle to neither fall into despair nor explode in anger.
So, these people are in the streets, having their moment and having their say. And America would do well to listen and not try to silence them or soothe them.
In fact, America listening and responding to these protests, respecting them, is one of the healthiest things the country can do, because as protester Kimberly Latrice Jones said at the end of her viral video, “They are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.”
Opinion | An Insatiable Rage - The New York Times

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