Terrence Crutcher was unarmed, walking with his hands in the air, his car stalled on the street. Police shot and killed him.
Keith Lamont Scott was sitting in his car, reading a book, waiting for his child to come home. Police shot and killed him.
For two weeks, white America has cried out in outrage over football players kneeling for the national anthem. Booing and screaming and threatening to deny protection for individuals simply protesting peacefully, taking to social media and beyond to decry this peaceful, silent act. The same white America who booed and screamed and took to social media and beyond to decry protests via standing or raised fists or Beyoncé videos or violence or public appearances by grieving mothers or looting or tweets or any other form because the form of protest is not the issue, it’s the protest itself, because white America would prefer its Others to quietly take it, grateful to be here at all.
One overwhelming message has emerged during this election cycle. In the rising visibility of white nationalism thanks to the Trump campaign, the message is “this is our land. This is our country. And we’re taking it back.”
It’s been so easy for so long to pretend white supremacists are a small fringe group, wholly disparate from good upstanding American citizens. But the lines have blurred, the grays ever-grayer. In an effort to remain comfortable with the status quo, those good upstanding American citizens are choosing sides with a kind of hatred most thought died out after World War 2. When you Google Terrence Crutcher, this is what happens:
Because they need to believe that every black person killed by police must have deserved it. That all protesters are inherently violent. That the standard of American living is quiet and peaceful and compliant and without complaint. That all lives matter, until they don’t.
That the standard of American living is white, straight, Christian and entirely unaffected by everything Donald Trump threatens to do.
To watch this happen has been eye-opening, devastating, confusing. To see friends, family members, neighbors align themselves with hate. To watch them choose ignorance, fear and abject hatred under the guise of “opinion” or “freedom.” To see that it’s not as simple as good people or bad people and that it never has been, and that the ugly and insidious part of this world that we as white people have been able to ignore our whole lives has been beside us or inside us all along. The sickening swell of realization that it’s like this, that it shouldn’t be like this, that it can’t be like this, that it has always been this way and may always be.
And no one is stopping it. Why is no one stopping it? Why don’t they see and why don’t they care?
And then another black man kneels, and another black man is shot and killed. And they’re only mad about one.
We’re broken. We’re so, so broken. And we have to be fixed.
So we hold each other tightly. We kneel. We have the difficult conversations. We don’t let things slide. We don’t ignore. We listen. We don’t silence. We don’t choose to remain quiet. We don’t choose the status quo.
We choose people’s lives over our discomfort.
This will get worse before it gets better. But we all have to pick a side. Don’t let them take it back. We must take it forward.