People are afraid to remove “Black Lives Matter” from the bio section of their various social media profiles. They’re scared they’ll be considered bigots and bandwagoners in the ongoing struggle for Black freedom. They want to archive the photos, put permanent book marks on the first page of anti-racist reading lists and move forward as if the summer of 2020 was a fever nightmare.
All of us on the other side didn’t really have to include demands for the respect of our personhood in our introductions. Our desire to live warranted no explanation or links to resources that certain posters did not visit. It has been a year of this twisted game—feigned respect and understanding co-existing near absolute horror and anguish. Knowing George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight by a police officer prompted pledges, averted gazes and initiated programming meant to raise awareness and amplify our voices. One year after Floyd’s death, I can’t help but wonder if all we were promised was in vain.
What is justice to the abolitionist?
Derek Chauvin is in prison right now awaiting sentencing for Floyd’s killing. For 9 minutes, he held his knee on the neck of a middle aged man calling out to his deceased mother. It’s one of the darker instances of state violence we’ve have literally seen in recents years, as it was documented and uploaded to social media for all to see. Again, Chauvin is incarcerated. But for those who rallied for the abolition of prisons and the defunding of the police, what does this mean? How can one rest knowing that the system they seek to dismantle has pacified them by putting away a man who was never equipped to protect?
We were sold dreams of upcoming fairness, but what is righteous is clearly weighty. Heavier than those who vowed to provide it could carry.
The public was also assured institutional equity. Some entities scrambled, not knowing what to do with their platforms or profit. We witnessed certain spaces encourage self-care to all in the midst of stomach-turning violence. They publicly gave to those who always should have been privy to equality in the first place. Progress is not giving a community what they are owed. Know that it is a kind, more than appropriate gesture, but there is other work to be done to make Black people feel safe and valued. That effort should also begin at the root of racism, not only at its twisted branches.
What is real justice to the Black child who will never see her father again?
I cannot answer that for her. But, to me, for us, it is freedom. Peace. The ability to fearlessly walk through life knowing that we are not targets. These are the things that we as Black people deserve. That is the true pursuit that underlies the extensions we were promised. If actions are not aligned with those basic human rights, then they are indeed in vain.