The death of George Floyd comes as waves of crisis are devastating communities of color. We are in the midst of two global disasters: the unchecked climate crisis and the mismanaged COVID pandemic. And as with all disasters they target the working and poor of every country.
In the US, we have just passed 100,000 deaths from the COVID-19 virus. There are countless heroes among healthcare workers and other life-saving providers. The flip side of this is that, broadly, we essential workers have been the low-paid canon fodder of a capitalism seeking to survive. And Black and Brown communities are disproportionately hit the hardest. On May 26, we saw the viral video of Mr. George Floyd murdered by the Minneapolis police. Protests and riots broke out in Minneapolis, and an uprising of conscience sparked across the country’s cities and towns. Around the world, protests of solidarity sprang up. Here in the Philadelphia region, the long history of police violence against the Black community and the structural racism of our city, came right to the fore. There have been continuous waves of protest, met in the worst cases with tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters with no place to run to, as armed groups of whites in South Philadelphia patrolled the streets with impunity. But the sheer force and impact of rapid protests, all these days later, is inspiring beyond words. As one part of all this, the City of Philadelphia finally removed the statue of former Mayor Frank Rizzo, always a reminder of the city’s long history of brutality against Black and the queer communities. Just the fact of the statue’s removal feels like a sign of this uprising’s impact.
It has been an incredibly intense time trying to check in with comrades to be sure they’re safe, while attending protests and attempting to keep up with the news on upcoming events and police repression. In our home of Delaware County protests have sprung up, but some in more conservative areas had to be canceled due to right-wing threats. The feeling overall is of ongoing intensity, and also of heartbreak as we confront the structural inequalities of our Black neighboring communities in areas of health, schooling, and in how police enforce a legal system that magnifies, exacerbates and profits from racism. Police encounters become flash-points of an entire infrastructure of inequality. This is the unavoidable truth at this moment.
As the father of a young child, at the marches I hear directly from Black parents who have to talk to their young children about the dangers of the police, because their children are in immediate danger only because of the color of their skin. This shakes me, it becomes impossible to not ask, what if this was my child?