THOUSANDS PROTEST IN NYC, BUT WILL THIS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Over the past three days, thousands of New Yorkers took to the streets to furiously protest the death of Minnesota man George Floyd. The same has happened in many cities across the country including Minnesota, the epicenter of this incident. The majority of the protestors didn’t know him, but many of us know or knew someone like him or have experienced racial injustice ourselves.
As many others that have witnessed the video showing three police officers effectively smothering the life out of Mr. Floyed, it was very difficult and painful to watch. What is even more upsetting, is that none of the officers, not even the fourth one observing the incident, did anything to stop one another. The knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, blocking off blood from the jugular vein and corotid artery to his brain, and the pressure from three grown men on his body had to have been agonizing. It was slow and torturous. Having been pinned down like this under similar conditions has personally made me a bit claustrophobic and watching this just made me squirm in my seat.
Growing up as a minority, I am no stranger to to police harrasement and racial profiling. I, as many other minorities, have witnessed or experienced the cruelty and selective discrimination by police and society toward people of color. These interactions make us fearful and diminished, but at the same time it angers us as it is bigotry and hate for nothing more than the color of our skin or ethnic identity.
Every since I was a boy, growing up in the Housing Projects of the Lower East Side of NYC, I never felt safe in my community. In those days there was a lot of violence on the street from gangs, drugs, and in some cases even our teachers or other parents. And when the cops show up, it never felt like they were there to protect you or the person being violated. In fact, there was a good chance that the Police would try to interrogate you or push you around just for being there.
There are many good police officers out there, but we know there are a few bad ones and an institutional culture of discriminations, harassment, and cover-ups. The fact that it took several days before pressing charges proves that police officers are treated differently under the law and that the Blue Wall of Silence is real. It has been shown time and time again. At this point in time, the other three officers have still not been charged. If this was a group of four minorities, they would have been immediately been jailed and charged.
These protests will go on for a short while, but during this time we are seeing an increasing amount of violence and criminal behavior. As I watch the news casts of all of the protests, I could not understand why some protestors were effectively destroying their own cities and local businesses. Destroying businesses, vandalizing, breaking innocent peoples car windows, and effectively terrorizing others just trying to get home was disgusting. None of those things help the cause of the protests and only make all of us look bad. Watching from afar you may think, why would they protest but allow all the self-destruction? My initial guess was that most of these protests were unoganized and did not have the proper leadership.
Today, Mayor Bill DeBlasio had a news conference and mentioned what other cities have been mentioning, that there could be organized politically driven organizations behind some of the violence and burning of property that has been taking place. That people from other cities or towns have been coming to the protests bringing weapons and malicious intent to cast a negative light on what would otherwise be peaceful non-violent protests. If this is true, it is absolutely crazy but nefarious in nature.
The premise here is that politically driven white organizations are intentionally sending people to incite the crowd into a mob mentality. People are already angry and it doesn’t take much to trigger those susceptible to start behaving irrationally. It starts to spread like a virus very easily. Certainly, it cannot be said that all of the original protestors had peaceful intentions. Afterall, people are people and not all think rationally. But if outsiders start lighting fuses, things quickly get worst.
One of the things that Mayor DeBlasio said, which I admire, is that he knows he himself has benefited from White privilege. He knows that he does not know what it feels like to be a minority. He is married to a black woman and has two mixed children, a daughter and son. He has witnessed his own black son be discriminated against and fears for him, which helps him to understand the problem. As a Mayor, he is not perfect, but he does try to make a difference in our communities that suffer these conditions.
Getting back to the questions at hand, “will all of these protests make a difference?” There is no clear answer. It may make a difference for this particular case, but the minority community been suffering discrimination and killings for hundreds of years in America. Change certainly has to happen, but it will not happen overnight or with people in high offices that continue to promote white supremacy and insight violence against minorities. It will take an overwhelming majority of people from all ethnic backgrounds to stand up and demand change.
I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but the reality is that there is no sign that this change would happen soon. Look at your local public officials and the make up of Senators and Cogressmen. Ask yourself, is there an overwhelming majority there to support this cause? Has there ever been? Will there ever be?
This change will take an extrodinarily long time to happen and extrodinary changes in leadership and society as a whole will be needed in order for this to happen. I am optimistic that eventually this will happen, but I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime. I hope that all of our young people continue to take up this fight and win this for future generations to enjoy. For now, let us continue with this struggle and make the small wins we need to inch our way toward defeating racism, bigotry, and inequality in America.