Updated: Jul 24, 2020
I will go ahead and warn you, I'm writing this piece extremely angry. One thing I've learned as a writer and as a decent human being, you should never post things when you're upset. But, alas, here I am, and I apologize for whatever might come out.
But, honestly, I'm not actually that sorry for speaking out against inequality.
Today I walked the streets of Charleston with my brothers and sisters, protesting the unjust murder of George Floyd by cops in Minneapolis. The protest itself was beautiful. Walking through the historic streets of Downtown Charleston while holding signs and chanting "Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter!," for the first time in a while I felt optimistic for the future of America. Seeing these strong, empowered black men and women standing up for their rights and speaking out against injustice while framed by locations of horrible cruelty against slaves created an unimaginable setting for such an important day. Protestors patiently waited for cops to unblock the streets, chanting and refusing to do any harm; people placed flowers and signs along the Mother Emanuel Church, the site of a former hate crime that killed 9 black souls in 2015; donning masks and gloves, we marched through the streets demanding change.
Unfortunately, as night fell and the majority of protestors dispelled, a few violence-seeking individuals looted stores, broke into cars, and threw bricks at restaurant windows, causing a dramatic scene to evolve. These individuals do not represent the protest that occurred today. We cannot give them the power they want, and we cannot allow them to overshadow the importance of the protests that happened. However, I must say, the expectation for these protestors to maintain peace when all black Americans are met with such horrendous violence due to the systematized racism within our country seems quite ironic to me. They aren't killing people, yet so many of their own have been murdered by our society. And regardless, there isn't a good way to protest. Peaceful protests aren't working, black men and women continue to get murdered; and if violence ensues, the protests are painted in a negative light, deemphasizing the actual reason for the protest in the first place.
I find it ironic how many people within Charleston have spoken out against the protests, especially considering the city's history with racism.
During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, Charleston, our city, was one of the main ports for importing slaves from the coast of Africa. Our own Charleston City Hall was built by slaves, as was most of the infrastructure throughout the city. Slaves were once sold at the end of Tradd Street in a "Vendue House." Charleston was built upon the backbones of slavery and oppression; we have continually profited from the enslavement and injustice against black men and women.
If you are upset by a peaceful protest that did no harm to anyone, you should be rethinking your own belief systems –– especially if you are white. Our black brothers and sisters have tried long and hard to peacefully communicate with the oppressors, but nothing has worked. As a country, we let them down time and time again. And here, in Charleston, no one died; no one was physically hurt. Yes, the looting and damaging of properties was unnecessary and extremely wrong. However, and I emphasize this, the people doing those acts were not the individuals protesting today. They were just violence-seeking individuals using these protests as opportunities to vandalize and loot. They were not supporting the movement; they were hindering it. Do not let them overshadow the importance of these protests.
A protestor speaking on the steps of the former slave market in downtown Charleston.
However, I will say, one vandalization had me grinning –– that of the statue of John C. Calhoun in Marion Square. While vandalism is bad, it's an important statement on the allowance of such racist statues. John C. Calhoun, an outspoken proponent of slavery and actively anti-abolitionist, once said, "the relation now existing in the slave-holding states between the two (races), is, instead of an evil, a good – a positive good." As I've written in a former watch magazine (subtle plug;), that statue should have been taken down long ago and placed in a museum or in some other site that provides the important historical context for such a strong proponent of racism and slavery. Our city should find ways to memorialize its past of slavery and racism without idolizing racist individuals. And that's all I'll say on that.
George Floyd was murdered by the cops. In 2015 alone, police officers killed at least 104 unarmed black individuals; back in 1999, people protested the death of Amadou Diallo, a 22-year old unarmed black man who was gunned down in New York City, and yet we still haven't found peace. There have been too many black men and women ruthlessly murdered by those meant to protect them. As a society, we have so much change that needs to occur before we can ever consider ourselves equal. The injustice is blatant; if you can't see it, you're either ignorant or ignoring it.
Amadou Diallo, LaTanya Haggerty, Margaret LaVerne Mitchell, Kendra James, Ronald Madison, Sean Bell, Manuel Loggins Jr., Ramarley Graham, Shereese Francis, Rekia Boyd, Jamar Clark, Yvette Smith, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Akai Gurley, Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown Jr., Christian Taylor, Walter Scott, Natasha McKenna, Freddie Gray, Bredon Glenn, Samuel DuBose, Gregory Gunn, Akiel Denkins, Ariane McCree, Terrance Franklin, Miles Hall, William Green, Samuel David Mallard, Botham Shem Jean, E.J. Bradford, Michael Dean, James Johnson, Antwon Rose, Stephon Clark, Yassin Mohamed, Finan H. Berhe, Sean Reed, Steven Demarco Taylor, Darius Tarver, Tony McDade, George Floyd.
These black men and women were all killed ruthlessly by police officers. And this is only a few of the many who have died at the hands of our justice system.
Now, I will say, not all police officers are evil. We cannot make assumptions based on a small percentage of bad apples. The problem is not the individual officer; the problem is the systematized racism as well as incompetence. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that some cops aren't racist –– they definitely exist. But I am saying that we cannot villainize an entire profession based on a few evil individuals. If we could teach less violent methods of arresting as well as alter mindsets to actively anti-racist ideologies, we could lessen the violence against black people, and the violence in response, a ton.
As a pacifist, I do not condone any violence of any sort.
We, as a society, as neighbors, as friends need to come together and use our voices. One quote from the march today struck me (paraphrasing): "You white folks need to stop placing the burden of ending racism onto the black community. We have been through enough, and we cannot assume this burden that you and your ancestors created. Your white ancestors created racism; you must find ways to repel it. If you're at the dinner table, and someone at that table makes a racist comment, you have to say something that makes the whole room go quiet. Use your voices. Be actively anti-racist."
Protestors marching and chanting "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" on King Street.
It is time to be actively anti-racist. It is time for systematic change. Please consider the reasons behind the protests before you focus on the negative outcomes of violence-seeking individuals who abused the platform of protest to incite. And, please, I beg of you, speak out against racism.
It is time to be actively anti-racist. It is time for systematic change.
Sending love to those who need it today and hoping for a future of equality.