The context of words and images matter

Political leaders have suggested recently regarding protests within their communities that it’s outside agitators who are to blame, something – whether it is true or not – which paternalistically mitigates the voices within the community which are rightfully angry, upset, and fed up.  This language was employed during the civil rights era as well which implied that the people within the community – whatever the community – while disturbed by events were never as angry as the agitators – the myth of the noble savage.  This perspective often becomes the justification for a militarized, draconian response by those in power to justifiable frustration.

Regarding George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery people are rightly angry.  Police officers are rightly angry, too.  Who wants their job to made even more difficult due to incidents like this AND the emotional reaction to them?  No one!  Yet, the problem with the outside agitator’s perspective – which I don’t deny is likely true – is that what is consistently refuted is the systemic racism within law enforcement and our justice system.  One of Trump’s officials said on the news this morning that he does not believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement.  Trump called the protesting an insult to law enforcement.

Last month, mobs of white people went to the governor’s mansions in Michigan and other states armed with long guns demanding to be freed from what they felt were draconian exercises of power that were employed for the safety of ALL of us.  They coughed on officers and refused to wear masks.  CORONA could have killed those officers and anyone else in the vicinity; why was this not considered a threat to any officer present warranting an escalation in the use of force?  

We often conditioned to view black and brown bodies as well black and brown psychology has something to be contained, policed, and irrational in contrast to white bodies and white psychology.  While I agree that the destruction of property cascades into other problems and does not at all make any situation better, limiting voices also makes matters worse.

I don’t have the answer here at all.  I am also not directly in harms way as you often are.  I do believe that the cultural divide between law enforcement and communities of color is contrived – it has been created into a focal point that wedges a racial divide.  Everyone wants to feel safe in their neighborhood.  That’s not just a white perspective.  Everyone wants to be protected.

Published by: Bryon L. Garner

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Bryon L. Garner earned his Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University and is currently pursuing his PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies at the Union Institute & University. A 2020 Ril M. Beatty Fellowship recipient, Bryon has presented and written about intersectionality, masculinity and patriotic identity and is a contributing writer for Black & Magazine. Bryon is an honored awardee at the 2020 Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Program Annual Conference, where he presented, “Her Brave Black Soldiers: Black Veterans, Patriotism, and the Soldier-Athlete Archetype.” Bryon was the subject of a Christian Science Monitor article “On Independence Day, Black Americans see hope of a larger patriotism”

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