Social media streams, meanwhile, are filled with white Americans learning about the power of supporting black-owned businesses, and sharing reading lists
and podcasts that address racism — and their responsibility to be not just not overtly racist
, but anti-racist.
But nothing here is novel. For decades, and centuries, black Americans have been attempting to make the country’s deep-seated inequality legible through the language of resistance.
Over the past week, people across the country have been assembling to condemn the killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin. These expressions of outrage don’t exist in a vacuum. Despite media coverage that’s tended to obfuscate righteous anger
, the protesters’ gaze is trained less on one officer than on the sin itself: a history of white control that’s long dehumanized black Americans while insisting that it’s acting in their interest.
“We need to reckon with our history of racial injustice,” Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal-advocacy organization, told The New Yorker on Monday
. “I think everything we are seeing is a symptom of a larger disease. We have never honestly addressed all the damage that was done during the two and a half centuries that we enslaved black people.”
Perhaps it’s a matter of social change finally meeting a moment. The protests are more diverse: It’s not only black Americans articulating their fury, though it’s certainly led by them.
Former President George W. Bush
(and his father
). Televangelist Pat Robertson
. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden
. These are some of the white voices, across the political spectrum, speaking to white audiences, saying that enough is enough.
Is the white establishment finally hearing the concerns of black Americans, who’ve been making their pain — their exhaustion with this pain — clear for decades? Maybe. But these figures also seem to be trying to draw a distinction between themselves and one of the darkest manifestations of racial division, crystallized in the moment when President Donald Trump strutted to a church for a photo-op with a Bible
after law enforcement ferociously dispersed a peaceful protest demanding racial justice.
Whether this broader momentum will continue in the days and weeks ahead, as former President Barack Obama hopes
, or be smothered by narratives pointing up supposed chaos remains to be seen. But whatever happens, at least one thing is certain: We tried to tell y’all