“Her name was Breonna Taylor. She was home.”
The children who watched Trayvon die and have watched endless black men die at the hands of police their entire childhood are now adults. These protests and riots are the product of a system that has failed an entire generation. The looting, for the most part, isn’t random – the stores that are being targeted are multimillion-dollar companies that thrive on the abuse of cheap labor. There are over 40 million people out of work due to COVID-19. America’s people are tired, and hungry, and hurting. The black community, specifically, has been tired, and hungry, and hurting since we first came here, but now we are angry. Angry that the country we built on the graves of the indigenous, and on the backs of slaves has yet again shown little to no regard for our well being, or the well being of any person of color. In the last three months alone, there have been three major losses of life with no remorse from those who are supposed to protect and serve us. Ahmaud Arbery was gunned down while on a jog because he loosely fit the description of an alleged string of robberies, which we found out occurred weeks prior, and not by him. Breonna Taylor was killed while sleeping in her bed because the police raided her home while looking for a suspect they already had in custody. None of the officers involved have been charged. George Floyd was accused of having a bad check, and we all know what happens next. So, what happens when a pot full of water gets too hot? It boils over. America has reached a boiling point, and this is what you get.
Would you tell the rebels of the revolutionary war that looting and rioting isn’t the way? Would you tell the students of the Kent State massacre or the students of the UC Berkley campus that protesting isn’t the right way? How about members of the civil rights movement or the indigenous people who had to fight and kill to attempt to keep their land? Often I find myself asking these questions to those who are, putting it nicely, missing the point. It’s very easy to see the country up in flames, and “not understand” or find it “senseless” as many people put it. If you truly understood why people are setting things on fire, then you would have to acknowledge why they are doing it in the first place, and people are finding that difficult to do.
Some of the rhetoric being used to regard the civil unrest right now paints a different picture for many, especially black people. This language includes, but is certainly not limited to, thugs, idiots, “dumbasses,” ghetto, and violent. Though not obvious to many, there are overtly racist undertones to this language. Take, for example, the president’s words regarding the protests in Michigan and the protests in Minnesota. The men and women holding assault rifles juxtaposed to unarmed men and women fighting against a modern-day genocide. The Michigan protesters were most, if not all, white, and though the Minnesota protests and even the nation-wide protests are a healthy mix of all races, there are people who are rioting while using the guise of the Black Lives Matter movement, even though we should all know this movement does not stand for violence. And yet, my community is still being described as thuggish, and ghetto.
I’m seeing a lot of people quoting Martin Luther King Jr in order to “support” their argument about breaking laws, however, I’d like to remind you that not only was he JAILED for breaking the law, he alone is not the reason for the success of the Civil Rights Movement.
I think something that people don’t want to talk about is that MLK would not have been as effective without Malcolm X as his opponent and vice versa. They applied pressure from both sides of the tolerance spectrum. We tried to be peaceful. We tried to be calm, and we were met with criticism. Colin Kaepernick tried to take a knee and ended up being blackballed from the NFL. Celebrities tried to speak out at award shows, and concerts and they were told to “stay out of politics.” We tried to make shirts and have peaceful marches, and we were called snowflakes and were told to “get over it.” At which point is enough? So many times we tried to speak up and were told to sit down, and be quiet. Well not anymore. Our message will be heard, by any means necessary.
Rachel Pettiford is currently a second-year graduate student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is studying Student Affairs in Higher Education and is set to graduate in May 2021. She is also a graduate of Frostburg State University, class of 2018, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Human Sciences and a minor in Sociology. She is a member of Frostburg’s Delta Zeta Sorority, Omicron Pi chapter.