Artwork by: Marielle Cabillo
The last week of May 2020 will definitely go down in history. The political climate of America is shifting. The inhumane death of George Floyd is what broke the camel’s back. Thanks to social media, videos of George Floyd pleading for his life while Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck until he suffocated to death, went viral and caught the eyes of many. People’s anger towards law enforcement, the people in power, and the justice system (or lack there of) is beginning to boil over. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this is all long over due. People are angry, rightfully so, and are desperately fighting for change. How many more black lives will it take for some of you to open your eyes?
I remember I was in the 8th grade when Oscar Grant III, 22, was murdered in 2009. This incident stuck with me since it was so close to home, taking place in Oakland, California. I was so upset when I saw the videos on the news, taking place in the Fruitvale BART station on New Year’s Day. Why was it so hard for grown adults to see that this was murder? And that this was wrong and should’ve never happened? Why was it in plain sight to a 13 year old me – who at the time, didn’t know much about the justice system and in school we were just learning the surface of the injustices African American people have faced – that Oscar Grant’s death was a big deal?
At that age, my outspoken and blunt nature got me in a lot of trouble. I forgot what the conversation was, or how the topic even came about, but suddenly I got the urge to speak up in class. I don’t remember verbatim what I said, but it was along the lines of “Johannes Mehserle killed Oscar Grant, and he should be in jail.” My teacher snapped.
“You have no idea what its like to be a police officer, you don’t know what its like to be under that pressure.”
I tried to argue back, saying that yes, I have no idea what it’s like to be an officer. But I do know that he was mistreated because the color of his skin, and that the police used unnecessary force. If they felt their lives were in danger, wouldn’t you reach for your taser before a gun? And even then it didn’t make sense to reach for anything since Grant was unarmed and on the ground. I was in an argument with a teacher… It was then I realized that regardless if you have valid points, there will be some people out there that will always take law enforcement’s side. Probably because that’s what they were taught, or simply because they never had unjust encounters.
In the Filipino culture, it’s very common to be taught to let things go, or not take things too seriously when an elder has an opposing view. To avoid conflict with family / their elders, many ignore the racist views and comments. We are taught to keep our beliefs to ourselves, and if you disagree, fine, just don’t you dare try to argue it. This has created tension within families, not only in Filipino households, but more so a lot of first generation children. The “disagree but stay hush hush” is something first generation children deal with when it comes to conversations on race and equality.
Getting into journalism was no different. Except this time they called it “being unbiased.” In times of distress, journalists still need to remain neutral and unbiased. This is something I’ve struggled with. It bothered / still bothers me to know that if I were to cover a White supremicist rally, that I would have to remain “neutral” while writing or documenting my piece. And the only time opinions in journalism is “acceptable” is if its an opinion piece. In times of racial tension, staying neutral and silent is the last thing people should be doing.
There are some people out there that act as if racism doesn’t exist. And other times there are people that know racism still exists, but choose to not address it because they’re scared to stir the pot. But turning a blind eye to something so apparent and disgusting helps nobody. No change comes from being silent. This reminds me of first generation children and their age gap with their elders. They know its wrong, but don’t speak up. By avoiding these hard conversations, you give hate and racism space to grow.
And it sucks, because we live in a time where you have to conceal what you believe because it can effect your professional life. I’ve heard countless times in journalism classes that whatever we post can be held against us. If we are seen at a rally, a protest, a march, it can mean losing our job. If we are posting anti-Trump content, giving our opinion on our personal platforms, it can mean losing your credibility as a journalist. Some people have to conceal their identities at the Black Lives Matter rallies because if they are identified, they could be putting themselves in danger. This is part of the problem, that some people have to choose between their job or publically speaking out or showing out for racial inequality.
And then there are some people that act shocked to learn that African American people still get treated like this in 2020. There is a shock factor that we all initially go through when new video footage surfaces of an African American being wrongfully murdered. But to be so baffled about the structures of oppression, the unjust ways of the system, and racism in general, that’s your privilege showing. For those that “can’t believe it,” you are denying the reality of so many individuals. Oh, you can’t believe it? When there are so many black lives that have been taken by law enforcement that we can name multiple victims by name just from the top of our heads? Wake the fuck up. If you’re surprised by everything taking place, its because you’ve been turning a blind eye to your brothers and sisters in oppression.
Like I said, the last week of May 2020 will go down in history. We have all been Sheltering in Place for almost 3 months, and in those 3 months we are bombarded with video footage of more police killings, more black lives being lost, more evidence of people falsely accusing black people of crimes. All. On. Video. This is not hearsay. There are so many videos from this Shelter in Place alone that I couldn’t keep up with it all. Everyday it seems like there is something new, someone else being killed, another cop acting out of hate, another hashtag going around of the newly deceased. This isn’t right.
And being Sheltered in Place only showed everyone’s true colors. Being at home gave us all extra time to keep up with current events. This has been building up over decades, but Sheltering in Place shed light on the broken parts of the system. Everyone’s tired of this shit. When is enough enough? How many more people have to die for actual change to happen?
Covid-19 really put into perspective what’s important to America. When mostly white protesters went against Shelter in Place Orders to have their “freedom” back because they can’t stay inside for the sake of medical field workers to flatten the curve, Trump supported them. Describing them as “very good people” that are angry and want their lives back. But when people protest the murder of one of their own, they are “thugs.” Its all about how the media portrays different groups of people, and when the president is the one to spew out hate, it further divides us as a people. The truth is, George Floyd can never have his life back, because a man who’s duty is to supposedly “protect” decided to end his life.
Why is it when these Trump supporters protest and hold up their “Trump 2020” signs with no masks in the middle of a pandemic, they have a right to protest? But when all races come together to peacefully protest the murder of a black man, a curfew is set, people are being tear gassed, rubber bullets are being shot, and the military is getting involved? The anger has been building up for decades, and we are now just seeing the outcome of people’s wrath.
I saw this tweet going around that stated:
“…Looting is the ultimate strike against a system that deems mass-produced objects to be far more precious than life itself. It is humanity demanding to be recognized.”
I know a lot of people have different views on looting. But to me, under these circumstances, I’m not so easily for it or against it. And I’ll tell you why:
In general, I do not condone looting. I personally wouldn’t do it. I believe peaceful protests will make change, and fighting violence with violence will only give the oppressor the upper hand. I genuinely feel for all the small businesses that have been effected by looters. Covid-19 has already put some businesses in a shitty spot financially, and on top of that to have your businesses broken into or burned down, my heart goes out to them. I feel like small businesses should be excluded from vandalization because it’s not some corporate company with millions of dollars, you’re hurting someone in your neighborhood trying to make a living. And that’s where I definately don’t agree with the looters making small businesses owner’s lives hell, especially with the devastating effect Covid-19 has had on them already.
However, I do see why some people resort to looting big well known companies. People are upset. Years of feeling ignored, unsafe, and dehumanized will take people to that breaking point. I explain it to some people as “I don’t agree, but I understand.” At the end of the day, I’m not black. I don’t know first hand what its like for my people to be the main targets of society. And I recognize that that’s my privilege showing. That’s why who am I to judge how some people grieve? Its true, America values the dollar more than a life. And it shows. “Seeing a black man plead for his life won’t pull at your heart strings? Okay, loosing profit off of your products will though.” Its anger driven, but I understand. And I also understand that majority of these looters are not affiliated with the protests and are just using this situation as a cover up. And to them I say – fuck you, you’re not shedding light on anything and you’re there for the wrong reasons.
I saw the video of CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew getting arrested on live TV with no explanation. Another reporter and her crew got rubber bullets shot at them. Journalists have a right to document and report on these issues. Its so disheartening to see things like this on the news and all over my feed. I’m seeing so many videos of peaceful protesters being sprayed and abused. All I have to say is: THE WORLD IS WATCHING. The true colors of some of these cops are being exposed. You can’t hide behind your uniform anymore, the world sees you, the real you.
It seems like the media focuses more on the violent parts of the protests, not the peaceful side. For the most part, the protests have been peaceful. There are even some videos out there of some officers walking with protesters. Videos of mass gatherings of people having a moment of silence, taking a knee, and human baracades to protect black and brown folks, makes me have hope in humanity.
We have hit the threshold, and now it’s time for change. Now is not the time to be silent. Its time for all races to stand up and fight alongside our black brothers and sisters. Enough is enough. Say it loud and say it unapologetically : BLACK LIVES MATTER 🗣