The Other Pandemic

by Maya Boddie | June 19, 2020 8:02 pm

a reimagining of Norman Rockwell's painting by Andre Trenier (On Alexander ave. and Bruckner Blvd.)

Recently, Republican Senator Tom Cotton penned a controversial piece in The New York Times, “Send In The Troops,” calling for the nation to “restore order” in response to the number of uprisings from state-to-state following the murder of George Floyd.

In all 50 states across the country, protesters have taken their frustrations and pure rage to the streets. In Louisville, Breonna Taylor, was in her home, asleep beside her beloved when she was shot eight times by police officers. No officers have been charged. In Minneapolis, four police officers have been arrested and charged after one of them violently suffocated and murdered 46-year-old George Floyd, as the other three officers stood there and did nothing. In a separate incident, a 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was shot to death, mistaken for a burglar by two white men, as he minded his business on a typical jog through a Brunswick, Georgia neighborhood. A daughter, girlfriend, sister, niece, and EMT—one of the essential workers this country claims to value, honor and protect, a father, brother, friend, and a young Black man with many hopes for the bright future ahead of him—all murdered at the hands of white supremacy. 

The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd occurred on the brink of a breaking point for this country. Many people in power stood by while Black and Brown communities suffered thousands of deaths brought upon by COVID-19. 

Bands of activists and community members roved the streets of Minneapolis, New York City, and Washington, D.C. We blocked entire intersections and interstates in Atlanta and Los Angeles and even defaced confederate monuments that represent centuries of enslavement in Richmond, Virginia. Last week, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, announced the statues of Confederate generals J.E.B. Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, and General Robert E. Lee will be removed.  These uprisings are evidence of centuries of oppression, violence, and inequality.

On June 12, 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was murdered by a white police officer in the parking lot of an Atlanta Wendy’s —not even one full month after George Floyd’s murder. In addition to Ahmaud, Breonna, George, and Rayshard’s deaths,  the current uprisings are a result of years of systemic oppression. The Other Pandemic that’s been killing Black people for decades. 

In his eulogy for George Floyd, in reference to the way Floyd was so senselessly murdered, Reverend Al Sharpton referred to the centuries of systemic racism as this country having its knee on the necks of Black people for far too long. 

The rage of communities of color across the nation is valid. While looting may be considered violence and frowned upon by many, one would argue that gentrification, unaffordable housing, lack of healthcare, and underfunded education qualify as forms of violence as well.

One could argue that corporations embody the qualities of a “violent looter,” ripping through the land, destroying space, pushing communities out, fueling poverty and homelessness, and disregarding the lives of Black people for decades, to name a few. 

Start with defunding the police. As long as police departments are given billions of dollars, and public school budgets somehow can’t scrape pennies together, there will be no peace. As long as police departments still manage to murder Black people, there will be no peace. As long as police departments continue to ignore the desperate cries of “I can’t breathe,” there will be no peace.

I see many concerns around what a local budget with decreased police funding looks like in the future. In the coming weeks, I will expose the ways your city is currently spending money, who’s getting more, and who’s getting the short end of the stick. Who gets a fair share of the pie? Does anyone? I’ll also highlight cities that have already implemented divestment strategies within their local police departments, and provide an inside scoop on what this looks like, what it can look like on a broader scale, and how communities are thriving as a result. 

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