Monday, June 08, 2020

Welcome, There is Work to Do

I have been grappling with the notion that we all come to these moments in our own time balanced with, we are behind schedule and we cannot wait for everyone to finish the reading. 
This week local restaurants started putting up names of victims of police violence on their windowa. Names of folks like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. This week the mayor painted "Black Lives Matter" on the street where I live, and changed a street sign to Black Lives Matter Way. 
These are all great public statements of support. I am entirely aware that these recent cases of police violence are what has galvanized this current moment, and I absolutely want justice for all of these victims. 
But I also want that for folks here, in this city. I am well aware that our same mayor imposed a curfew that was then used as an excuse for local police to chase and pepper spray protestors. I am aware that both the Metropolitan Police Department, the Capitol Police Department, the Park Police Department, and the Metro Transit Police Department have shot and killed people who have not received justice. 
I know that when one puts together a poster of prominent names, that you lean towards the ones that have the widest appeal. 
But I confess, I worry. I worry that it's easy to think, gosh things in Minneapolis are bad, but not here. That it's easy for restaurants to publicly support something that doesn't directly challenge and law enforcement likely to walk by their restaurant. 
It's easy for the mayor to paint a road near the White House, and still demand huge parts of our city's budget for police so they can buy more riot gear and pepper spray. 
But hey. Being cynical is bad. I'm sure all these folks here in DC are reading up and will want to demand justice for Jeffrey Price, D'Quan Young, Marqueese Alston, Terence Sterling, and others. Justice is not a one size fits all answer.  Sometimes it comes in the form of arrest and prosecution. Sometimes it is better funding for policies that allow for restorative justive, or the elimination of qualified immunity for police officers.  None of these options bring back people whose lives are lost.  None of these policies will take away the pain of those families. But they are perhaps ways we can limit the number of families that join their number.  
In a week where a number of corporations emailed me to let me know they were aware that racism is a problem and they are looking into how they participate, it is easy to dismiss these notes as performative.  They are performative, if they aren't followed by action.  But it is a moment worth noting.  If corporation X has decided they need to tell me they are against racism, then they have provided an opportunity for me to follow up with them and make sure they are living up to that, to challenge them about times I know they have fallen short.  
So, if you cheered for the painting of "Black Lives Matter" on the street but don't know the names of the victims of police violence where you live, welcome.  There is work to do.