Look at how police responded to the community in our loss, our grief, our anger. Our disappointment in a system that we were trained to believe in, that we are now realizing is failing us, has always failed us. That system was never really built for black folx.
The police response was framed around wanting things to go back to normal.
I don’t think they understood that what we were watching in real time was a mass funeral. From coast to coast in America, people took to the streets and they grieved together. Anyone who’s been to a funeral, anyone who’s been in a space where death is being recognized and where people are engaging in empathy and solidarity knows it’s going to be intense, it’s not going to be pretty. It’s not going to be easy; it’s going to feel uncomfortable and those systems are not used to feeling uncomfortable. They are used to making other people and communities uncomfortable.
We were saying the murder of James Scurlock was unacceptable to us. The murder of Breonna Taylor, the murder of George Floyd, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the murder of Nina Pop, the murder of Tony McDade, the murder of so many black folx that we have seen in real time taken from us. We were not okay with it anymore and we were eulogizing them in the streets.
The biggest loss that we experienced in our community during these protests was that of James Scurlock. And we had the county tell us that James’ murder was self defense, therefore it wasn’t a crime. I don’t think that we gave our community the respect and space it needed to process what we were experiencing. My fear is that we have had this wound of trauma that is going to scab over and be another circumstance that becomes infected. Another Vivian Strong situation. Another situation where our people are going to have to choose to forget just to get by.
When you look at systems of mass incarceration, you’re looking at people who have lost the right to speak up for themselves. People whose autonomy is not accessible, who are living under a curfew. And the louder you are about how you’re being treated and how you’re being harmed the more they want to silence you. Systems of oppression thrive on silence.
I remember at Tecumseh during the riots there, when we were fighting for food that wouldn’t make us sick, we were made to feel like our demands weren’t important.
We are important.
Our voices are important.
Our bodies are important.
Our energy is important.
Our communities are important. But none of these things that are so important are based on the systems of oppression that are dictating our lives.
Omaha was speaking truth to power and the most powerful systems in our city did not want to hear the truth.
I challenge you to continue to tell your truth. I challenge you to be comfortable getting uncomfortable. I challenge you to stop judging the way that people grieve. I challenge you to engage in empathy and really seek efforts that create opportunities for solidarity.
I challenge you to ask yourselves what type of community we want to have. We have the power to change what this community feels like, and there’s privilege in that. So I challenge you, whatever you can take on—do it.
Because the systems won’t stop. And we can’t either.