This was an article I wrote on Dec. 24, 2014, and submitted to a local paper. Not hearing back from them since the holidays, I figured I might as well get it out here. This is a response to an article written by Mark Holmberg which you can look up if you want to read it, I don’t want to give it the clicks.
Mark Holmberg is a staple of the Richmond journalism scene. I remember being a kid and reading his columns in the Richmond Times Dispatch. As an adult I have been interviewed by Mark for his new gig at WTVR CBS 6, and seen him at numerous protests and events around town. He’s been in my home on several occasions. Mark is a human, you know, like the rest of us, and a perfectly nice guy in person. Sometimes, Mark’s perspective which he infuses his reports with is sympathetic or similar to my position on an issue. But there are other times where Mark’s reporting makes a strong case for the old concept that if you don’t have nuthin nice to say don’t say nuthin at all.
Unfortunately, the views Mark has chosen to broadcast regarding the Eric Garner and Mike Brown protests fall into this category. His December 21st article, starts off badly and doesn’t get any better. He seems to draw ties from the world wide protests against police brutality, murder of people of color, institutional racism and impunity from accountability for the police to the mentally ill man who killed his partner, a woman of color, and then two NYPD officers. There is no connection between #blacklivesmatter protests and Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the man who shot the two cops, and there is no reason to try to delegitimize organizing and protest efforts by people of color and their allies around these issues based on faulty logic.
Mark draws rapid, trite conclusions, about both the Eric Garner and Mike Brown decisions. I have been patient with white people who do not understand or sympathize with the Mike Brown murder and Ferguson situation. I know it is hard for folks to see past their white privilege, especially without video evidence (sigh). But white people need to learn to listen to people of color and believe what is being said. White privilege protects white folks from certain experiences and blinds us to certain realities.
There has been an almost constant back and forth of evidence in the case of Mike Brown. I think what many white folks don’t see is that Mike Brown was not the first, nor has it been the last, police murder of a person of color, and in that context the back and forth evidence swings much harder one way. Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Kimani Gray, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and Rodney King, are all just the tip of the iceberg of unjust, racist, murders of people of color by the police. There is a context to the outrage, there is a context to the outrage, and within that context the conflicting evidence and conflicting reports take on a sinister tone.
There have been SO many white men who have been so violent, who have been carefully taken down by the police, arrested, and had their day in court. Black people, even criminals, deserve the same treatment. The failure of that to happen, and the obvious extreme militarization of the domestic police force in the aftermath, are both solid reasons to protest the status quo in our society. Someone does not have to be an angel for their death to be an injustice. There are few among us who are not criminals in one way or another, it’s just that some of us (hello white privilege), get away with it easier than others. We should not embrace a politics of respectability,the idea that only people who fit within a certain ‘respectable’ image are deserving of rights, kindness, consideration, etc.
But I can not understand how anyone can watch the video of Eric Garner being choked to death and not feel sick to their stomachs. To sum up Eric Garner’s murder by blaming his alleged petty criminal behavior is to basically give a double thumbs up to street executions for anyone who doesn’t tithe to the king, or grovel sufficiently to the police. What I have found interesting is hearing from some Tea Party folks that they sympathize with Eric Garner BECAUSE he was avoiding paying a tax. Let’s not forget all those colonial white people dressing up as native americans (racist,racist,racist but so was almost everything else they were doing) and throwing tea into the Boston Harbor to protest paying taxes to the King of England. If Eric Garner was avoiding paying taxes, he is simply part of a long legacy of resistance to taxation. Resistance that many white people take pride in – when it is other white folks doing the resisting.
Mark asks if the murders of Mike Brown and Eric Garner are our best evidence of racist cops. I have to ask Mark, “Where have you been buddy?”. Tamir Rice, 12, in Cleveland shot within 2 seconds of the police showing up to the park where he had a pellet gun. Watch the video, it looks like the cop wasn’t even all the way out of the car when he shot him. I could print a list here, of all the kids and teens and adults of color who have been killed by the cops. The average is 1 every 28 hours though, so it’d make a long list.
To demand answers about why a disproportionate number of black people come into contact with the police, or suffer from “disproportionate illegitimacy, illiteracy, poverty and associated heavy problems that fuel hopelessness and criminality.” and suggest that protest and movement organizers around the #blacklivesmatter concept AREN’T asking these questions is bunk. Anarchists and radicals and even the tamer leftists have been asking, and answering these hard questions for year. Black people have been asking and answering these questions for years. The group of mostly women of color who organized the Richmond protests are well educated and vocal on these issues. We live in a racist, patriarchical, classist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and capitalist society, which profits off of pushing addiction and consumerism, tears families apart, redistributes taxes unjustly, fails to protect workers, and values the dollar over our communities and families. I haven’t met any protesters who aren’t drawing connections from the murder of black people by police which are symptoms, to the underlying root causes of racism in our society. Don’t worry Mark, we’re on it, try listening.
Institutional racism results in the extra policing of communities of color, and the specific targeting of people of color. If you need examples of that I suggest you look up the numerous cases where black police get assaulted by white police when they are off duty. Harold Thomas had this happen to him just this month. Racial profiling is a confirmed practice by many police departments, which explains why more people of color are stopped by police in the first place. A great example would be the NYPD’s Stop and Frisk program which was so racist the ACLU has taken a strong position against it.
To suggest, or imply, that black people are more criminal than white people, is a hell of a type of racism. Comments on Mark’s WTVR piece really show how the racists have come out of the woodwork to voice support for his poorly constructed viatrol.
The insistence of Mark and other commenters that Black people are playing the victim card, and that protesting police murders of black people perpetuates the stereotype of black people as victims is so far off the mark it is absurd. Black people and their allies are coming together in these protests as organizers of a new movement, one which is empowering and revolutionary. Being oppressed by this racist society isn’t being used to excuse or encourage criminal behavior (and this assertion that black people or the oppressed commit more crimes is rude and incorrect), and the #blacklivesmatter are not about that. Mark is derailing the issue with typical racist stereotypes of people of color, exemplified by his use of the term ‘hoodlum’.
I’d hoped for better from Mark, and hoped for better, more insightful coverage for Richmond. Maybe Mark just missed the mark here, his article seems almost half constructed, or simply not fully thought out. If that is not the case, and this is truly his position, then perhaps he can find an opening with Fox News, I hear they are big on incoherent racism.