“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”

by Jada Pierre, Opinions Contributor
graphic by Emily Zhang

These past few months have been a hectic time. I didn’t realize how things could get progressively worse since the video of Christian Cooper being verbally attacked surfaced. This incident followed by Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and ultimately George Floyd was the final straw to break America’s silence. Americans, specifically non-Black individuals, are known to be silent on issues affecting their Black counterparts. Silence surrounding these issues is a form of complicity. By remaining silent, you are excusing the murder of American lives. I stumbled across a quote that said, “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 During a time when  social media is constantly evolving, it is almost impossible to be silent. I saw numerous of my peers speak up, whether that was in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement or not. Something that initially started as a hashtag is now at the forefront of nearly everyone’s mind. These past few weeks revealed and outlined the subtle — and unsubtle — forms of racism in America. Let it be known that officer Derek Chauvin, who killed George Floyd, has a corrupt history regarding police brutality. He had a list of long complaints that included allegations of misconduct and excessive use of force. I found it interesting that despite the interaction being filmed, it took a public outcry for him to even be prosecuted to the lowest degree. This tragedy lengthens the pattern of corruption that America exemplifies. If the right people hadn’t been complicit with Chauvin’s past actions, George Floyd would still be alive today. 

Despite the police force playing an extensive role in the death of unarmed Blacks and African Americans, the media’s position cannot be overlooked. It is known that the media picks and chooses what to serve to its viewers. At what point is the line drawn? When is the media coverage damaging and counterproductive? I have attended five protests so far, one being my own. This goes to show how active my level of engagement is with the movement in addition to keeping up with the newest information. At one of the earlier protests I went to, I marched peacefully along with many co-conspirators to the statehouse. It was peaceful for about six hours until more police showed up. The lack of sympathy I witnessed from the police was traumatizing. I watched, with my own eyes, as a police cruiser drove into a group of protesters, who were doing absolutely nothing wrong. If I weren’t standing on the gate, without a doubt, that could’ve easily been me being driven into. 

Not even a few minutes later, the police barricaded me and my friends while they released tear gas onto its peaceful protestors. I was lucky enough to make the last train before they halted all of them. To finally come home and see the news coverage on only the riots and lootings after six hours of peaceful marching was just a slap in the face. The pain I felt was simply immeasurable. No matter what, a victory seemed hopeless. The media was silent on what mattered the most but vocal on what mattered the least. I wasn’t surprised though. Not once have I seen the media address the economic, educational and health disparities in the same way that they are so quick to cover stolen and replaceable merchandise. I wish the media would address gentrification in the same way, too. The energy they put toward covering the riots and lootings  is simply unparalleled. 

Black people are disproportionately affected in nearly every way possible but of course, the media doesn’t want to address that. In the YouTube video “How Can We Win,” Kimberly Jones explains why it is problematic to only address the lootings. In her words, “as long as we’re focusing on the what, we’re not focusing on the why.” Following the assumption that looters are not legitimately angry about the ongoing issues revolving around Black Lives Matter and are using the moment as an opportunity to steal, she provides the game of Monopoly as an analogy to help viewers further understand the financial gap between poor Blacks and the rest of the country. She reminds viewers that Black people were brought to America to lay the foundation for the American economy, doing agricultural work in the South and textile work in the North. Now imagine you were in that position and had to play 400 rounds of Monopoly without anything, including money. Then, you had to play 50 additional rounds and everything you earned was taken from you. For 400 rounds, she explains how you are playing on behalf of the person you are playing against. All the wealth Blacks earned is essentially turned over to their oppressors.

 For the remaining 50 years you played, every time that you were self-sufficient, they burned your game, cards and monopoly money. Tulsa and Rosewood are perfect examples of this. Being released from Monopoly serves as a metaphor for the present day for Black people. The only way to catch up is for their oppressors to share the wealth. As Jones perfectly states, “every time you share the wealth, there is psychological warfare against you to say you’re an equal opportunity hire.” As previously stated, every time you do something that the oppressor doesn’t like, they burn it down. This goes to show that the horrendous cycle against Blacks is fixed. There’s no possible way to win. Therefore, focusing on the riots and lootings is just a lost cause as the buildings were never really ours to begin with. We never owned anything. 

This is why the message with the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t lost because of a few stolen items. I hope anyone who speaks up recognizes the amount of privilege they have if they only discuss the lootings and riots. Indubitably, the state of this country is the outcome of the nation’s leader failing to meet the needs of Black people. The racism against African Americans is prominent and a disgrace to everything this country claims to stand for. The fact that the president would rather declare martial law and let America enter a state of chaos than command for the prosecution of their own officers reveals whom this country serves and protects at the end of the day. Not Black and African American people for sure. This is why saying the phrase “all lives matter” is ineffective, flawed and racist. Black lives matter but under our justice system they don’t and never did. This is because Black lives are not valued in the same way that white lives are. Saying all lives matter is the equivalent of having a fractured finger but focusing on all of your fingers because all fingers matter. Yes, all fingers matter but that doesn’t change the fact that you have a fractured finger that needs your immediate attention. Saying “all lives matter” does not take away the years of oppression Blacks and African Americans went through. Nobody said “all lives matter” until “Black Lives Matter.” Don’t glorify needing a movement, be glad if you don’t need one.