TODAY’S EPISODE: One victory does not win the campaign
There is, I think—or at least it’s something that I perceive pretty widely—a problem among us white people who aren’t open oppressors or obvious bigots in terms of stupid optimism and wildly misplaced idealism.
We are, so many of us (especially online and in offices and such), privileged in our daily lives to not be facing oppression and mostly not being crushed under abject poverty to expect that things will “all work out.”
(By the way, I say “we” loosely. I personally have this kind of optimism at best maybe half the time and I suspect a lot less than that.)
We saw it with Donald Trump. White people who weren’t greedily sucking down the MAGA sauce who thought Trump was just a pathetic joke who would go away or be shut out by the GOP. Then we said he couldn’t possibly win. And then we said Congress couldn’t possibly let him continue to be openly criminal and unethical. And then we said he couldn’t possibly make it through his presidency either because of lack of will or because the systems would save us from him. And then we said the re-election couldn’t possibly be close (and it was, at least in terms of the electoral college). And then we said surely he will be convicted once he leaves office (no sign of that yet but…maybe?). And then we said he couldn’t possibly come back (and yet there is plenty of support for him to do so…and have a high chance of winning if he runs again).
Over and over, we white people insisted that we lived in the best democracy on Earth and that the systems couldn’t possibly fail. Yet fail they did—all those checks and balances we learned about in Civics class—and many systems adapted to enable the worst behavior of Trump and his ilk and enshrine it and make it worse. Even now legislatures across the country are working hard to exclude and disempower voters who would ever vote against the GOP again.
But somehow Joe Biden winning made a lot of white people start breathing too easily. Many of us have already started thinking everything is OK. Never mind that Biden is still letting draconian rules about refugees and immigration stand. Never mind that he’s always been accommodating to the right.
Yes, I am glad not to have a crisis every moment, and Biden’s moderate right-leaning stance seems like a breath of fresh air after Trump, but we’re not out of the woods. The battle is far, far from over.
And so it is as well with the Derek Chauvin verdict.
I’m sorry, was that transition a bit abrupt?
Too many of us are talking about how the system finally worked. How a cop finally got served the consequences he should and how Black people and George Floyd’s family in particular finally got justice. How it’s all going to be fine now. See? It’s going in the right direction.
There have been other isolated cases of police officers and other agents of the state getting punished for wrongly killing or otherwise oppressing and abusing Black people or other marginalized groups. Yet overall, the odds are still in the favor of them not being punished for their violence and for the victims (especially dead ones) to be criminalized or stigmatized instead.
Also, we still haven’t gone through the appeals process or the sentencing with Chauvin. He might still get off or get a slap on the wrist in terms of punishment.
One battle in a war rarely marks a victory or even a shift toward winning in many cases.
And with so few wins, it would be foolish to think “things have changed.”
Also, let’s not forget that just before the Chauvin verdict came in, Ma’Khia Bryant was killed by police in Columbus, Ohio. And near the end of the Chauvin trial, less than 10 miles from the courthouse, Daunte Wright was killed by police during a traffic stop.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves thinking victory over racist violence by police or any other systemic abuses against people of color, other people of difference or the poor is in sight.
Let’s stop trusting our increasingly broken systems to do what is right when what we need to do is loudly demand that they change direction to true justice—or tear them down completely and rebuild something better from scratch.
[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]
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