I put together a bookshelf tour video for this week's post, but right now, it doesn't feel right to post it. Across the past few days, through social media, I've seen a fervor erupt in the U.S. like I've never seen before. This is largely inspired by the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police in Minneapolis. However, there are a lot of larger factors at play: decades of police violence, the current coronavirus pandemic, an ever-widening wealth gap in the midst of yet another economic downtown, and all of this being borne most severely by marginalized groups and particularly Black people. It's not hard for me to understand why there have been such intense protests in so many cities across the country. Black people have had enough, and frankly, it is way past time for change.
I've always been most fascinated by humans; all our weird contradictory complexities, and yet history shows us that humans don't do a lot of changing. There is always a lot of violence and prejudice and horror being perpetrated by people, especially those in power. There is always a lot of resistance to any social movement. There is always a lot of selfishness. But some things do change, in bursts here and there, and I hope this might be one of those times. It's not easy to live amid chaos, but it's also not easy to live amid an accepted status quo where people are suffering. In both these cases, privilege protects a lot of people, including me. It's quiet where I live, in my life, almost all the time, and sometimes, that makes me forget how much societal and political terror so many others are living with. But social media provides me a broader view by giving me access to other people. It shows me the suffering that people like me, white people, need to recognize and accept responsibility for changing, and it helps me be understanding about behavior that might seem extreme if I didn't know how much injustice and death and pain has been happening.
As a speculative fiction writer, reader, and viewer, I have immersed myself in so many stories about morality, injustice, and revolution. I am not in any way alone there. Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and other popular phenomena all include these themes. But I think too many of us see this as being limited to fiction, to the past, or to other countries. We fail to recognize the way they're affecting our own societies, especially those of us who are people of privilege living quiet lives. We have problems, yes, many of them deeply painful, but we aren't being hurt by society in such a consistent and structural way. So it's easy for us to turn away or condemn others and not realize that we're ignoring the very heroes that we cheered for when we saw them in a different setting. Protests and riots are a part of so many important pieces of progress that have been made in the world.
So I'm asking all of you who are in a place of privilege, especially non-Black people, especially white people, to stop and listen to the voices of those who are trying so hard to be heard right now. Stop and consider their experiences, their perspectives, and your place in all of this. I'm sharing some posts below that I think are important. (More can be found in the future on my Twitter and Tumblr.) There's also a link to a Twitter thread where I've reshared those books by Black people that I highly recommend. Keep in mind that Black voices are the most important right now--and those voices also matter when they're talking about the other side of humanity that doesn't change: love, humor, goodness, and hope.
Here are the names of just some of the people who have been killed--some of the ones whose stories received attention.
I've seen multiple tweets by many different people pointing out the horrible priority imbalance in the U.S. The government didn't mobilize fast enough to prevent a lot of suffering in the pandemic, but did mobilize quickly to shut down these protests (or in some cases, set off and aggravate riots). Teachers and healthcare workers are going without desperately needed and life-saving supplies, but police have military-grade riot gear, tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets. (Many of these can be lethal and are illegal in warfare and/or in other countries.) I think this is emphasized by the many videos of the violent police response to protesters, reporters, and bystanders across the U.S.. Note that these videos can be triggering and even dehumanizing, so be wise about watching/sharing them!
Then there's these two pics of the responses to protests this weekend vs. earlier protests against pandemic policies (mostly by armed white people.)
This Twitter thread has various sources on the negative impact of having police officers in schools.
This website has research on policies that reduce police use of force. Based on what I'm seeing, we need more than that: the police need to be demilitarized and defunded. These policies are just a start.
This Twitter thread about defunding/abolishing police through the lens of overpoliced vs. underpoliced communities doesn't have sources, but it does fit what I've seen.
This thread from YA author Tess Sharpe talks about utilizing white woman privilege to protect Black people.
If you're disabled or otherwise unable to participate in protests, check out this article. There's a Tumblr post about some petitions and places to donate here. (I have not vetted all of these, so do your research, please!) You can also split a donation between bail funds here.
This thread shares some mental health resources for Black people.
This Vice article talks about a lot of different ways to make daily life easier for Black people.
I have used Resistbot on Twitter many, many times, and I 100% recommend it. It also has its own website. The bot allows users to more easily write to their government representatives about important issues, including racism and police brutality! Make use of this tool, y'all.
I will conclude with my Twitter thread of recommended Black-authored books.
Except for one final note:
Added Thoughts 3 June 2020:
I’m realizing more than ever that prejudice isn’t an enemy we can just knock out and proclaim victory over. It’s always here. It’ll always be here. Humanity, as a whole, is always the same, and that means fighting prejudice is actually more of a regular daily chore than an epic battle. It’s like laundry or showering, and everyone ought to do their fair share. (Which means privileged people gotta step up because marginalized people bear too much of the burden.) This makes historical figures for human rights seem less accomplished, in a way, but it also means they set the example for an exhausting and demoralizing task. You keep doing your part, and you do it while it’s your time, and you can only hope more people will step up once you’re gone. Which I think they always will, in some way. But it’s hard to face a task that is never done, never resolved, never achieved. I think that’s why we like to pretend that it’s mostly in the past and that we’ve made so much progress.
But as soon as you stop doing the work, the evil sets in. It builds up, like dirt or trash.
There are moments when heroes accomplish amazing things in the face of violent horrors, moments when you do punch the enemy. But I’ve realized the majority of this fight comes in a quieter and duller form. It’s like the actual context of the quote, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
We need to get better at recognizing the heroicness of quiet, never-ending labor.
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