I wish white people understood that this is a big problem, but it’s not the whole problem.
I’m working on putting together a racial justice statement for a company and I wish I could give them a full socialist manifesto and break down the history of policing as it relates to the emancipation of slavery, and capitalism as it relates to racial oppression. The whole system is bigger than anybody can understand, but because you all benefit from it, you have a responsibility to do your best to understand it.
I’m very concerned that with such a hot spotlight on police brutality, everything else that’s tangentially related to racial violence is going to be blacked out. I don’t want this to be another one of those situations where we get thrown a bone, we get some attention for a while, and then it becomes even worse after, because white people say, “Well, we listened to you for a while. Now we’re going to get back to how things were.”
Issues that affect people of color, that affect low-income Americans, are going to be ignored because of this. And even though police brutality is obviously a very important issue, it has to be understood in the context of everything else that’s going on. I don’t think everyone is ready to acknowledge that, and I worry that might be where the movement falls short.
I’m always one to be more concerned about “what’s going to happen because of this” than “what’s happening right now.” After President Obama came President Trump, and so I’m worried that after all of this, there’s going to be a stronger conservative push to fight back against everything that’s progressed. That’s what happened with emancipation. That’s what happened with the end of Jim Crow. Brown v. Board of Education. The end of the civil rights movement. There’s always a conservative pushback and I’m concerned that this one will be exceptionally violent. Not only because there’s been some violence in the protests, but because this wave of protests so heavily involves the police.
As much as I want to be pessimistic, though, there are lots of signs that I should be hopeful. Even though this is an incomplete movement, it’s bigger than any I’ve seen before. People are starting to at least listen to stories of police brutality. Defunding the police is starting to catch some steam as more people begin to understand what that means. Hopefully, there will be more community-oriented programs across the country. A lot of people are gaining a better understanding of history, and there’s a lot of evidence that this can create permanent change.
Part of me is always pessimistic because there’s a lot of very powerful forces to fight against. But at the same time, people are going to keep fighting. And as long as people are going to fight, there’s reason to be optimistic.
Lenward Williams, 22, is a recent college graduate living in New York City.