When the story of Ahmaud Arbery's murder was blowing up, I knew I had to speak up. I was angered by the murder itself and the leak of past bodycam footage featuring Arbery. I felt like they were trying to justify his death by making him seem like a criminal. The leak of the videos felt irrelevant and the whole thing seemed racially motivated. As upset as the tragedy made me, I had no idea what was to come.
The murder of George Floyd happened on Memorial Day, right before I completed my article on Arbery. I was absolutely furious at the obvious mistreatment Floyd suffered at the hands (and knee) of these officers. The fact that his alleged offense was non-violent, he was unarmed, and was already handcuffed as he begged for his life was devastating. I was expecting to see others with the same reaction, but I was completely unprepared for the sheer chaos that ensued.
I'm sure by now we're all aware of the protests that are happening nationwide. Some have been peaceful and some have escalated into violence. When things have gotten violent, it hasn't been as black and white as one would think. It's not simply a question of did police provoke protesters or the other way around? It's not simply carefully planned stealing, burning, and spray painting. It's, not so simply, all of the above.
Hence why it's so difficult to engage in such discussions on social media. Twitter isn't a very fun place to be right now. One could argue it never was, but at this moment, it's almost impossible to make an argument over something this complex on such a platform. This is one of the reasons I love being a writer. To be able to gather your thoughts and express them is a gift in times like these.
For starters, there are many who are against riots and advocate for protesting peacefully. The counter argument states that we shouldn't be telling black people how to express their rage following such injustice. After making sense of all this chaos, I've come to a conclusion: I think both parties are wrong.
I support people protesting peacefully. I am also supportive of those peaceful protesters defending themselves if police mistreat them. If it escalates to violent clashes between protesters and police, so be it. Self defense is essential, especially when police have been caught on camera doing unethical things during these protests. Many officers have been exposed instigating violence with protesters, completely unprovoked.
I don't think it's right for anyone to instigate violence. I also don't think it's right to cause property damage or steal from stores. I don't think it's right to set buildings or cop cars on fire. I believe the intention behind these protests should always be peaceful. When someone breaks into a store or burns a cop car, they do not have peaceful intentions. That is simply not self defense.
Countless videos of unprovoked officers instigating violence with protesters have been shared on Twitter. In one video, cops drove two NYPD vehicles into a crowd of protesters in the street. In another video, police began hitting people on the sidewalk with their batons for seemingly no reason. There was another video where an officer hit a black woman with his bike when she did nothing more than speak.
It's completely unfair to blame the escalation into violence on the protesters. The fact of the matter is, many of these incidents aren't their fault. The police are the ones who appear to instigate the violence most of the time. That isn't to say there haven't been occasions where police walked with protesters and took a knee. This has happened quite a bit as well, but it isn't the entire story.
There's also an important distinction to make between self defense and planned rioting. Most of (if not all) these protests are not planned riots. The people who organize these demonstrations have every intention of keeping them peaceful. When people show up to deliberately set buildings on fire, smash store windows, and spray graffiti on public property, they're not affiliated with the group.
There are many videos online of protesters calling out rioters who are causing damage to public property. In one video, a black woman tells a white woman vandalizing a Starbucks that the media and public at large will blame black people for the vandalism. It's unclear as to what the rioters' intentions are. Some say they're far right extremists trying to make the other side look bad. Others, like the President, believe they're from Antifa.
Antifa is a far left group that operates in an aggressive and violent way. They are there to provoke. Their history has been well documented on YouTube in recent years. While many are rightly suspicious of anything the President says, I don't think it's out of the question that Antifa might be behind some of these riots. Regardless of whether they're from Antifa or the far right group, Boogaloo Bois, they are definitely provocateurs.
My point being, these acts of vandalism and stealing aren't what the majority of people involved in these protests want. Unsurprisingly, it has turned out to be exactly what they predicted. People on both sides of the isle believe these acts are being carried out by black people who organized these demonstrations. You have people defending the stealing and damage in the name of black people. You also have people condemning the damage, blaming black people.
I understand that some people carry out their activism in a violent way. Although, it seems like certain individuals are infiltrating a movement to take total advantage. At this point, it's hard to know the truth. Maybe we're witnessing infighting between activists who are peaceful and activists who are disruptive.
Whatever the truth is, I hope peaceful protesters of all races get the attention they deserve. Believe it or not, conservative white racists aren't the only ones against rioting and violent protests.
Despite the chaotic mess caused by rioters, what the President did on Monday was completely uncalled for. Trump held a press conference to respond to the protests and threatened military action on civilians if states couldn't keep them in line. The sad thing is, I don't recall the President holding a press conference to express remorse over George Floyd's death.
Keep in mind that the police haven't just been targeting rioters, but peaceful protesters as well. If this military action is enforced, I think it will just lead to more unfair treatment towards peaceful protesters. I fear our country will become a war zone between civilians and law enforcement. We're not only living among a pandemic and police brutality, but a President who has no idea how to lead the country.
It seems like our First Amendment rights are being disregarded as well. Several members of the press have experienced police violently targeting them while reporting on the protests. On one occasion, a CNN reporter was arrested along with his crew even though they identified themselves and politely asked where officers wanted them to go. A black man was also arrested for simply speaking to officers in Charleston, SC.
Do we not have the right to protest anymore? Is freedom of speech just a joke? What happened to freedom of the press?
What also seems troublesome is the way some well-intended people are handling these discussions. Many Twitter users are targeting the LGBTQ community in particular to support the Black Lives Matter movement. The argument being used claims that since Stonewall was a riot started by a black trans woman, Marsha P. Johnson, we have an obligation to support the movement and the riots.
First of all, I absolutely support the Black Lives Matter movement. However, my reason for supporting the movement isn't because I'm gay. It's because I believe in my heart it's the right thing to do. When you target people as a group, not an individual, you're not going to get the desired response.
Second of all, it seems like many are rewriting history to support their own agenda. As far as I know, people who attended Stonewall that night didn't go with the intent of starting a riot. They just wanted to hang out and have a good time. What they engaged in was an act of self defense against police who were targeting them. They shouldn't be equated to the people stealing from stores and defacing public property right now.
Marsha P. Johnson herself claimed that she didn't throw the first brick at Stonewall. She said that she didn't arrive until 2:00 in the morning and the riots had already begun. There are also people who question whether bricks were even thrown. Other Stonewall participants say it wasn't a riot, but rather a rebellion. They claim it didn't escalate to the kind of violence that people think it did.
Back in the sixties, not only were there no camera phones, but the events of Stonewall were reported on in a very surface level way. The mainstream general public didn't want to hear about homosexuals at the time. It was a taboo subject that the media didn't bother looking into any further. As a result, a lot of people today like to romanticize and mythicize the reality in a way that makes them feel good.
Surprisingly, the Stonewall Riots weren't even the beginning of the gay rights movement. I was surprised too, as this is a mistake I have made myself. So let's have a quick history lesson, shall we?
Magnus Hirschfeld actually founded the first LGBT rights organization in Berlin in 1897. The Mattachine Society was New York's first gay and lesbian rights group founded in 1950. The Daughters of Bilitis was the first lesbian civil rights organization founded in San Francisco in 1955. There was also a 1966 "Sip-In" which took place at Julius' tavern in New York.
You might think I'm getting off topic here, but I feel it's important to dispel these myths once and for all. It doesn't bother me if a black trans woman started the events at Stonewall. It doesn't matter to me whether it was a riot or a rebellion. I just feel that we, as LGBTQ people, need to be respectful of our own history. If we disrespect our own history by creating fictitious myths, how can we expect anyone else to respect it?
I think LGBTQ history should be taught in schools alongside the civil rights movement. In order for that to happen, we need to know and accept the truth.
I also feel it's important to dispel these myths because people shouldn't be weaponizing them to get LGBTQ people to support Black Lives Matter. Targeting white cisgender gay men because they don't check off enough privilege points isn't a smart move, either. If a person is well informed and has a good heart, they will support the movement without having to be swayed by groupthink.
There's also a lot of people who try to combat racism in an unintentionally bad way. Jacob Michael, a gay YouTuber who I enjoy, did a video talking about the recent protests. He claimed that all white people have a racist worldview. Michael said white people are all socialized to be racist.
Obviously, racism isn't something that you're born with. It's a learned behavior that's taught.
I think there are children raised not to be racist with parents who are consistent with those values. In those cases, I don't think those children will be easily swayed once they're confronted with racists as they grow older. It really stems from the parents. If the parents instill those values at a young age, they will know racist ideas are wrong.
Not only do I disagree with Michael's view, but I don't think it's right to generalize about a group of people. That's the very mindset that got us into this mess. Unfortunately, racism is a widespread problem that isn't going to be solved by simple generalizations. It's so much more complicated than that.
Racism is an individual problem that I think will unfortunately always be an issue. Hopefully, we can work towards it being less of an issue. The current goal is for it to not be an issue at all for people in positions of power. Those positions should be reserved for people who weren't raised to be racist. Believe it or not, there are plenty of them in the world.
I will leave you with a heartwarming video I found on Twitter. Believe it or not, there are some good things going on in the world as well. I'm not sure who filmed this video or what the context is behind it. However, it goes to show that there is still hope for future generations. The only question is, will we be able to give them a better future? I'd like to think that's what we're fighting for right now.