We are Sick and Tired of Saying Their Names

Every action has an equal, opposite reaction. It is a law of physics, and we have taken it as a law of racial progress in this nation. Whenever Black people have won some small advancement, white people have lashed back against it. After Emancipation and Reconstruction, we had Redemption and Jim Crow of the 1890s and beyond. After the Civil Rights Movement, we had the conservative revolution of the 1980s. Now, before the Black Lives Matter movement has even had the chance to gain ground, we see the white reaction, nationally and locally. 

Protests across the nation after the police killing of George Floyd have gained momentum in their demands to defund the police, but they have not had the chance to achieve much concrete change. Most recently, protests erupted in Kenosha, Wisconsin after a police officer shot Jacob Blake, and in Rochester, New York after bodycam footage from March was released depicting Daniel Prude’s arrest back in March. Prude died after police found him running naked in a street March 23, put a hood over his head to stop him from spitting, then held him down for about two minutes until he stopped breathing. He died a week later after he was taken off of life support. 

These protests, like those across the nation, were largely peaceful, but there was some violence, theft, and property destruction. Many white people across this nation, most notably of course, Trump and the Republican Party, have used this violence as an excuse to condemn the movement and its demands. 

Sadly, we are forced to bear witness to more and more murders of unarmed Black people by a white policeman. More and more names are being added to the seemingly endless list. And, just as well, we hear more silence from the President and see more political spin from his supporters. Still, the carnage continues. Still, we keep saying their names.

Even in the old “lawless” West, shooting a man in the back was considered cowardly and despicable. Yet today, some of our police are being lauded as defenders of law and order even as they shoot unarmed men in the back. Not only are Black lives trivialized, but we are delegitimizing the value of all human lives. Sadly, reality is being conflated with theatrical productions and violent video games. However, unlike in movies and with zombies, those murdered in real life cannot not be rebooted to play in another game or star in another film.  

Still, too many white Americans view the Black man as the evil zombie in a game of life and death. White Americans are being desensitized and manipulated. The bully pulpit of the POTUS is silent, save for dog whistles suggesting that there are “good people on both sides.”  

Let us be clear: Donald J. Trump does not care about anybody but himself and his self-aggrandizement. We are all pawns in his pathological game of divide and conquer. What is the secret to Trump’s success in duping the masses? Are our white people feeling threatened by our demand for full citizenship and human rights? Rest assured, most Blacks cannot afford to reside in the suburbs. And those of us who can afford the suburban life are already your neighbors. 

The conflict is not between socialism and social order. Rather, the issue is between fascism and democracy. We have an aspiring fascist in the White House who is methodically laying the foundation for total control of our lives. While Trump is the face of this drift toward fascism, worse are the opportunists who are benefiting monetarily and politically from his power grab.  

To watch intelligent and well-meaning Americans being duped by a con man is frightening. To see a country that positions itself as a beacon of freedom and democracy become a template for tyrants and dictators across the globe is disheartening. How in the hell can we applaud the protests in Hong Kong, the Arab Spring and the struggle of ethnic minorities in China, yet deride the legitimate protests of our long-suffering Black citizens?  

We were aghast at live video streaming of the barbaric beheading of Daniel Pearl. But where is the outrage when you see a man shot in the back with his children watching? Is barbarism only an issue outside our shore? We pontificate to other countries about their human rights violations while remaining silent about the ongoing violations of the human rights of our own Black citizens. 

As we wrestle with the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racism, the current administration’s response to both has been inadequate. Why fuel the flames of division? Why reinforce the stereotypes of racism that have become embedded as facts in the minds of too many white Americans? Why push our country toward a race war, just to win an election?  

We have an opportunity to bend the arc of the universe toward justice. Or we can wallow in the putrid mud of racism and write a history that will cause future generations to ask where were the good people? History will judge Donald J. Trump. History will judge us, as either part of the solution or part of the problem.