I think it’s important for all of us to recognize, especially those who want to hold MLK up as the kinder, gentler revolutionary, that the civil rights movement that gained momentum in the 60s did not slow down because equality was achieved.
It slowed down because the majority of its leaders were either assassinated or incarcerated.
And I can only imagine that, as a result, a deep communal sense of grief and cynicism took root, requiring generations to overcome, rebuild, and rediscover a strength of voice. Thankfully, that’s what we’re experiencing today.
We need to remember that one of the key tools of the movement in the 60s was lawbreaking; some of those laws may seem archaic to us now, but those that broke them at the time were considered violent and to be feared. It was on the basis of this civil disobedience that the “law and order” platitudes were developed, and which have resulted in the current predicament that we are in — well, one of them, anyway — specifically, our militarized police forces and the significant criminalization of our community.
For too long, we have allowed the lives of certain people to function as collateral damage, yet when property or capitalist enterprises function as that same collateral damage, we draw the line. Am I pissed that several small businesses were collateral damage during the current protests? Sure. I’ve almost solely worked in small businesses, and so I understand the financial dynamic at work there.
But I am infinitely MORE pissed that Breonna Taylor is dead.
She was rendered as collateral damage, a gee-gosh mistake at the hands of a militarized police force. She cannot recover. She cannot rebuild. She cannot pivot and adapt and change to meet the needs of the community around her. She cannot ask for help.
Yet, for a nation with purported Christian underpinnings, we are disturbingly quick to allow the transgression of one of that religion’s most sacred tenets — thou shall not kill — as the simple cost of doing business.
Breonna is just one example of the millions of nonwhite people who have paid the ultimate price of our obsession with property, and there are no holidays for them. There is no reverence for those we have sacrificed in this way to maintain our standard of living.
The majority of them are lost to us, their names and thoughts and feelings and dreams and hopes and loves deleted from existence without record.
So it’s all the more important that we know and say the names of those that we sacrifice today. We must recognize that they have paid a severe price for us to live as we do.
And if we’re not okay with that, and I sincerely hope that we aren’t, then we need to begin the terrifying and painful work of transforming who we are as a community.