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Defund the Police Does Not Mean Abolish the Police

The “Defund the Police” movement has gained serious momentum following the public unrest after the murder of George Floyd. Before we can unpack the public perception of this movement, we first need to acknowledge the way we absorb new information at face value in a society that receives most of their news from social media sites.

Social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, have quickly become the most trusted yet least verified news platforms in the world. These agencies provide an opportunity to empower marginalized voices when utilized responsibly, but in the midst of fury and frustration we have failed to exercise caution and accountability in the way we approach information that can be easily dismissed as “radical.” All we need is a headline and an image to make a decision on whether or not we agree with an idea. Opening the article or seeking additional information has become a tiresome and unnecessary burden. If the headline is appealing, we share it. If the image strikes us, we post it without second thought. The immediacy of our assessment of the subject matter happens naturally and instantaneously, not unlike the way we assess a person’s attractiveness or the color of the walls upon entering a room.

With this undeniably whimsical approach to our civic contributions to social media (news), you may notice a shift in the blatancy of this article’s title. While the titles of my previous columns have been mostly academic in nature, expect future headlines to provide more standalone value so as to capitalize on the first (and sometimes only) opportunity to deliver a message. Such is the process of learning how to “write both effectively and affectively” (Dr. Ricardo Cortez Cruz, English Department Chair, Illinois State University).

I recognize that some will read this article in its entirety, digest its contents, and encourage others to do the same, but it would be ignorant not to assume that most viewers will only be exposed to this article’s title and thumbnail image. Some might even share the article on social media without first reading its material to see if they agree. Having acknowledged the recklessness of our content consumption, it is important to take advantage of the one chance writers have to provide information and, ideally, influence readers to further inform themselves on the topic.

So I’ll say it again, for those in the back, and for those who lack the ability, tools, or desire to gather information independently and responsibly…

Defund the Police does not mean abolish the police.

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Defund the Police means the reallocation of finances to programs and organizations that bolster the peaceful effectiveness of law enforcement. Defund the Police calls for greater dependency n social workers, mental health counselors, and human resources. Defund the Police encourages our society to reevaluate the way we approach “law and order” and consider where reformation is desperately needed. The movement begs for the establishment of a society that feels safe rather than scared when they notice a police officer behind them.

I believe all of these details to be urgent, necessary, and long overdue. Defund the Police is the core of the peaceful protesting that has transpired since the public decided they had seen enough on May 25, 2020. It is simultaneously the sadistic spawn of other violent, misguided acts of protest such as rioting, looting, and arson. It is the polarizing call to action that US citizens need, even if they can’t yet recognize what it means for them.

The cry for police reformation has gone without response for decades, after the murder of Rodney King in 1991, Oscar Grant in 2009, Eric Garner in 2014, and now George Floyd in 2020. The movement to deescalate and disarm the police is progressive, well-intentioned, and could potentially save the lives of people who stand in opposition to its cause. Why, then, is the topic so divisive?

Because the phrase, “Defund the Police” sounds bad.

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We spent the first part of this article admitting and acknowledging that we absorb news reactively and share information casually. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we still do it. “Defund the Police” is a perfect showcase for why it is critically important to title movements and headlines purposefully and in a way that elicits a desired response. First impressions must be admirable and easy to digest, as is the desired response of a woman’s makeup or a wall’s neutral color.

If the strong intentions of a movement aren’t inherently easy to navigate, American culture will find a way to botch the the desired response. Our society is so naturally divisive that if there is any room for an oppositional stance to blossom, it will. We saw this when Colin Kapernick kneeled for the National Anthem, when Black Lives Matter was met with All/Blue Lives Matter, and when wearing a mask to shield our nation from a deadly pandemic was met with resistance and denial.

The worst part is that the Defund the Police movement is so close to a complete breakthrough. At a time when the movement needs every voice of support it can get, it would be so valuable if the tagline were more comprehensible.

What I mean is, the title, “Refund the Police” (or even more accurately, “Reform the Police”) is exponentially more approachable. It inspires curiosity rather than disgust. Instead of provoking instant rejection, it invites wonder and a desire for more information. Headlines such as these allow us to engage with progressive policies before forming a biased opinion that stems from a reactive emotional response. __________________________________________________________________________________________

This small alteration to the title of the Defund the Police movement would greatly improve the optics of the movement’s intentions. It clarifies the movement from being an emotional, dramatic, and impulsive response to a carefully planned step in the right direction. With the perception given by the movement’s current title, it should be no surprise why some audiences interpret the idea of defunding the police as reckless.

The word defund means to withdraw, prevent, or deny support.

The word reform means to make changes to something in order to improve it.

Both words accurately describe the desires of nation-wide protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. But one carries a negative connotation, while the other maintains an assumption of positivity. But by now the movement’s title has become so recognizable, it is difficult to revert original biases.

Here’s the truth about defunding:

  • Your children’s school has been defunded for years.
  • Your art programs, creative outlets, musical opportunities, and public outreach have been defunded for years.
  • Your healthcare and retirement plans have been defunded for years.

But so far, the response to defunding the police has been cautious and speculative at best, and at worst outright dismissed. The movement’s proposals may eventually see some level of progress, but hopefully it also incites a realization that the above programs are actually being defunded.

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The too-long-didn’t-read version is this: No one is calling for the complete removal of law enforcement. We won’t be defenseless when we are assaulted, robbed, or in danger, because the career of a police officer will coexist with society until the end of time. But there are ways in which we can make improvements and alterations that are easily identified and desperately needed. The reason this movement’s good nature isn’t transparent is because its title is misleading and difficult to comprehend.

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I recognize that this article is somewhat of a tangent on the title of the “Defund the Police” movement without exploring much of the information about the movement’s desires and proposals. I feel that this topic deserves to be an article on its own with respect to the weight of the information. I’ll be writing a more informative infographic column like this soon, but for now here are more avenues to become informed on the movement’s authentic intentions:

Stay safe, stay healthy, and #DefundThePolice

Brandon Hillary

June 23, 2020

COVID-19 Pandemic Journal

For my grandmother, Kathy Hillary, who has always loved my writing and encouraged me to journal this experience so that my children and grandchildren might someday read it. 

For my father-in-law, Paul Voltz, who encouraged me to write to help combat my difficulty sleeping. 

And for my wife, Alexandra Hillary, without whom I would not be rational enough to produce coherent writing in the first place. 

Wednesday, June 17

It has been nine days since I last wrote and published any reviews, journals, or columns. With the pace that I had been writing at lately, more than a week of silence resembled somewhat of an abrupt halt in my publishing cadence. During this time away I wasn’t writing much outside of idle thoughts and small notes, but I did have a considerable amount of time to think and reflect while simultaneously recharging a faltering battery. 

Alex and I were lucky enough to join her family on a trip to the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, TN. We stayed in a hotel that was a short walk from downtown Gatlinburg, which turned out to be, as Aunt Nancy called it, “a tacky little town.” Every day we drove through the unique areas of the national park where we hiked, visited historic buildings and gravesites, white water rafted, saw wild black bears, and stood underneath waterfalls. Every evening we would freshen up before treating downtown Gatlinburg like it was Las Vegas on New Years Eve. Each night just got more rowdy, with a finale that Uncle Todd pointed out will be a story told timelessly throughout the rest of our lives. There will be a time for that story, but for now, what happens in Gatlinburg, stays in that tacky little town. 

This combination of hiking and horseplay was the perfect way to unplug from the heavy weight of our current social world, a place where the impulse to check social media is irresistible when paired alongside an eagerness to contribute to the ongoing conversations we are all having. I have to admit, it was quite relaxing to spend some time concentrating on how many times I could skip a rock down a creek rather than how I was going to compose the newest chapter of this social justice novel we are all writing together. 

Having been home for a few days now, the computer screen has been a bit blinding. There is so much to question, read, consider, and contribute to that it is hard to know where to begin. I am trying to find a footing to help resume the tenacious pace I was writing with before leaving last week. My hope is that plugging a much needed update into this journal serves as a minor bridge to reconnect with the keyboard again, as it did initially three months ago.  

It has been intriguing to look back on these last few months and diagnose the transformations of our social, political, medical, economical, and personal worlds. Each has undergone such dramatic change, yet here they each lie in front of us, intact and whole. COVID-19 is still rampant throughout the country, but many areas are lightening restrictions and progressing through phases as planned. Our president still tweets more than he briefs, yet he remains in the White House unscathed. While our hospitals are still busy, they are not overrun or starving for supplies. We have spent some hard times at the grocery store, but for the most part toilet paper and sanitizers are back on the shelves. And although we are still bored at home, we can now partake in many of the social customs we have been looking forward to, such as eating outdoors at restaurants, having a drink at a bar, getting haircuts, and socializing with friends and family from a distance. When you consider all that 2020 has flung at us, from the death of Kobe Bryant to the death of Rayshard Brooks, it is simply astounding that our nation remains afloat, and in many cases, pretty much okay.

The trip to Tennessee was somewhat enlightening in regards to social expectations and restrictions, even if I already knew what I was in for. Masks were irrelevant, every business operated under normal hours and policies, and social distancing was negligent, nay, impossible. The stark contrast between Tennessee and Illinois made my head spin upon arrival. The juxtaposition between these two worlds left me with two contradicting thoughts that I wrestled with all week, as I do now while writing them down. 

  1. Illinois’ drastic and restrictive policies toward the coronavirus, whether necessary or overbearing, are going to make a positive impact. The virus will continue to circulate as it has for likely much longer than three months now, but there is no question that it will be more likely to be shared in states like Tennessee that are relaxed in their handling of COVID-19. If there is to be a second, third, fourth wave (we have yet to get through the first wave) as the medical experts say, it should be blatantly obvious that these waves will be founded within areas of infrequent mask wearing and under-dedicated social distancing. We have already seen evidence of this theory (common sense) in the most recent proceedings of positive COVID-19 tests across the country. Areas with tight restrictions such as the midwest and northeast US states are seeing respective declines in new coronavirus cases. Consequently, southern and west coast states have seen increases in new cases of COVID-19, which could be easily predicted when examining their lax social restrictions combined with what we already know about the contagion of the virus. Below is a map of the severity of increases/decreases throughout the United States, published on June 11, 2020. 
  1. Here’s the problem, though. While this map is encouraging as evidence that “we do good things, things get better,” it is hard not to look out the window and raise an eyebrow at the collective gatherings happening across the nation right now. Between our reopening of non-essential/entertainment businesses and the coinciding massive grouping in the form of protests, it would seem that we are acting in direct opposition to the medical precautions we had spent three months crafting together. In an instant, it seems as though we’ve collectively retreated from “quarantine cautious” to “it’ll probably be okay.” It wouldn’t seem hard to argue that we are ready to embrace the consequences of our collaborative civic indifference. 

Don’t hear what I’m not saying; I don’t know what we should be doing, what is appropriate, or what is politically/socially/economically correct. I’m just a dude who writes for some of his friends and family. I do know that many of our “top experts” on whom we rely to make nation-wide public safety decisions might not know much more about this than we do. It is becoming so evident just how unprepared we were for a pandemic of this nature. There was no backup plan, we couldn’t identify necessary information about the virus immediately (and still can’t?), and we watched as 50 governors were left on a political island to play a single game of “you go first” chicken. 

The word that has been consistently used to describe our circumstances is “unprecedented.” I don’t envy the responsibilities of our governors, administrators, and executives during these times, and I’ll never pretend to have the answers we need to get through this. However, I am confident in logic and common sense that we are more than halfway through experimenting what will happen if we do decide to throw caution to the wind and “get back out there” like an athlete after getting a tooth knocked out. We are in groups of hundreds of thousands in the streets. Sanitizers are easier to come by now, yet many are washing their hands less than they were three months ago. In some areas of the country, citizens are not only refusing to wear a mask, they’ve thrown them away. 

I highlight our civic recklessness as evidence for this experiment I just mentioned. Even if it may not have been intentional, we are already conducting a low-variance scientific investigation:

  • Hypothesis: if we don’t wear masks/social distance we’ll spread COVID
  • Test: collect in groups that grossly ignore medical guidelines, don’t wear masks, practice lax hygiene
  • Data/Conclusions: TBD. But the results will directly influence our decisions on when it is appropriate to resume school, work, and all non-essential activity. 

I’m quite sure we’ll talk soon.

No quote for you today. Instead I’ll announce that I’m applying for graduate school in the spring. Thank you to everyone who has encouraged, shared, and appreciated my writing. This makes it pretty easy to invest more of my time, money, and energy into learning how to do it even better. 

Love y’all

Brandon

“F*** 12”: An Opposition to Hive-Mind Thinking and Impulsive Radical Propositions

The last few weeks have been tumultuous to put it lightly. It seems every day there is a new, more narrow issue to be addressed within the larger conversation we are all having. Recently I have seen increased tread on a more targeted movement within the Black Lives Matter community. That movement, candid in nature and language, is “fuck 12.”

Fuck 12 is inherently self-explanatory. It’s the most common graffiti tag line used to deface public property during protests and riots. It also represents an ideology of unwavering and unanimous disdain for every law enforcement officer. It is the social movement version of the common acronym “ACAB,” which stands for “All Cops Are Bastards.” Fuck 12 is the devil’s advocate to the “bad apple” argument. Fuck 12 assumes that there can be no good apples, because the tree is rotten.

My fear is that our rage has become so blinding that we are losing sight of the targeted recipient of our frustrations. We are gutting our own movement if we regress into the belief that this social justice war is a matchup of “Protesters vs. Cops,” as if it were the headline on a pay-per-view MMA card. It is critically important to understand that we should view this conflict as “The People vs. The System” (which, by the way, is the justification behind the confused and under-focused “All Lives Matter” movement). The more we squabble with each other, the more the system looks down on us and laughs. What we need is a targeted attack on the system, not the system’s pawns. 

When law enforcement officers kneel, collaborate on moments of silence, and march alongside protesters, the result is often chilling and inspiring. Acts such as these show a cooperative understanding and an empathy for the problems within the organization, not within the organization’s employees. 

Yes, we’ve all seen the viral videos of police officers using an abundance of force and at times relishing the power surge that comes with it. But whether we want to consciously recognize it or not, we’ve also seen thousands of righteous officers working tirelessly to protect our nation from descending into the chaos and disorder that we seem so prepared to embrace. Under the most volatile of circumstances, law enforcement officers across the nation have been thrust into double duty and extended shift durations while their vacation days and sick leave have been restricted indefinitely. Every day, police officers and national guard man the front lines where their morality is questioned and their dignity threatened by members of the “fuck 12” movement. 

It is entirely unethical to provoke more conflict than we already have by denouncing our public servants and rescinding our support for them at a time when they need it most. At a time when their wives and children tremble when they leave for work. A time when their local streets, buildings, and monuments are defaced with a two-word phrase condemning their organization and discrediting their public contributions. 

Lately, I have seen increasing momentum in favor of radical propositions such as mass police resignation and defunding of law enforcement entirely. While our intentions behind this momentous social movement are pure, we have to limit the severity of the pendulum’s swing. What we need is balance; equilibrium. To suggest that we can fix systemic judicial racism by adopting Purge tactics is reckless agenda at a time where our voices carry actual weight. While I believe our resounding collective willingness to engage in these conversations is a net positive, we have to be cautious with how much agency we give to radical proposals like defunding law enforcement and calling for mass resignation. 

It is dangerous to grant momentum to radical propositions such as these simply for the sake of being radical. If you need an example of the power and potential behind impulsive, radical grassroots movements, look no further than the presidential campaign of an uncensored reality TV star and businessman, a wildly successful campaign which was founded upon radicalism, revisionist thinking, and oppositional policy. 

The candid, less-pandering version of my point is this: the American voice means something right now. And when we share things like “ACAB” or “lol fuck 12” to our most influential global news sites, that means something too, even if it feels minor or unimpactful in the moment.

Any time we spend squabbling directly with law enforcement officers distracts from the real people, systems, and organizations that deserve to be the focus of our outrage and call to action. Don’t protest the police officer; protest the establishments that encourage and equip police officers to respond with unnecessary violence and excessive force.

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Right now, it’s easier than it has ever been to form biased, impulsive, uninformed opinions and catapult them into our news feeds and conversations. Rather than granting agency to regressive movements, we should condemn these budding, misguided ideologies and attempt to refocus our attention on the real systemic issues. This article serves as a call to action against impulsive thinking, reckless sharing of propaganda, and radicalism for the sake of radicalism.

There have been few moments in history where we have had such intense civic responsibility combined with opportunities to make meaningful contributions. We should acknowledge our allies and stay focused on non-violent resolution in order to ensure our movement remains headed in a progressive direction.

“It’s not enough to say that there’s one bad apple. It’s got nothing to do with the apple tree. That’s the fucking soil.” 

-Larry Wilmore in his 12-minute podcast, “The Virus of Racism in America

Brandon Hillary

June 7, 2020

#BLM

Taking the Knee: How Closed-Perspective Thinking Influences Our Understanding of Social Issues

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees received major pushback on Wednesday following an interview regarding his thoughts on professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem. Brees exemplified a clear lack of awareness when stating, “I will never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country.” What he believed to be a harmless display of patriotism instead invoked waves of disapproval and backlash throughout the African-American community. We know Drew Brees to be one of the greatest public servants New Orleans has ever seen, but still his shortcoming was in his inability to diagnose the true motives and intentions behind a cause that does not directly implicate him. By insisting that he will “never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag,” Brees unintentionally boasted that his privilege is too blinding to approach a delicate form of protest from an underprivileged perspective. 

This anecdote accurately represents the good intentions of so many Americans who want to make their voices heard but struggle to recognize and acknowledge how their white privilege influences their perspective. Colin Kaepernick was run out of the National Football League in 2016 for exercising his right to peacefully protest police brutality by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before each game. At the time, this righteous form of protest was met with severe criticism and slander, but we now appreciate the courage that it took to continue fighting for awareness of a social issue that deserved to be taken seriously. What many Americans, including Drew Brees, failed to recognize is that kneeling for the national anthem is not and has never been about disrespecting our flag, country, or armed forces. The motive has always been transparent – we just weren’t listening. 

It can be difficult to reconcile with the reality that there is a time and a place to appropriately address social issues. Surely there are serious social issues regarding U.S. patriotism and opportunities for military veterans returning from deployment. However, it is both cowardly and irresponsible to hijack the momentum of a social justice movement in order to rehash an ideological misunderstanding that should never have existed in the first place. 

Teammate Malcolm Jenkins responded to his quarterback’s statement with the question that the African-American community has been desperately pleading for years, “If this is not the place, then where is the place?” Throughout its tenure, the BLM movement has been effectively muzzled each time it gains momentum. They are told that they are using an inappropriate platform to make their voices heard and subsequently asked to protest in a way that is less invasive and easier to ignore. Right now, our country is experiencing the serious consequences resulting from years of closed-perspective societal thinking. 

One of the most difficult realities to digest is that we are simultaneously suffering from two distinct societal meltdowns – a revolution amidst a pandemic. The public response to the social regulations combating the spread of COVID-19 exposes some of the same closed-perspective thinking we displayed when we failed to recognize the motives behind taking a knee. 

The last 11 weeks have been littered with varying public response to mandatory social restrictions. While the majority of the public was determined to oblige, many had difficulty comprehending their civic responsibility due to an inherently biased perspective. Shelter-in-place orders were commonly met with resistance from those who were not as severely threatened as those who were considered “at risk.” Many citizens denounced public safety recommendations under the guise of their own privileged perspective. It was not uncommon to hear people argue, “Well I’m not at risk, so why should I have to obey?” without first considering the perspective of the 109,000 dead Americans who have suffered the morbid consequences of the most contagious virus the world has ever seen. 

When approached with any decision-making process, it is natural to first ask, “How does this affect me?” before considering, “Now how does this affect the world around me?” This natural progression of thought ensures that we maintain agency over our own lives. It would be reckless to abandon this respective process in favor of adopting the perspective of others before first considering our own. We need some level of narcissism; if you don’t look out for you, who will? But we fail to exercise open-perspective thinking when we detach from the reflection that should follow our initial self-centered thinking. 

What we have seen with the resistance to the restrictive COVID-19 social expectations is the same failure exercised by Drew Brees on Wednesday. It is the inability, or rather the indecision, to invite multiple perspectives into our own decision-making processes. Considering the perspectives of the at-risk and underprivileged empowers us with the ability to answer difficult questions such as, “Why should I wear a mask if I’m not at risk?” or, “Why would people disrespect our country by kneeling for the national anthem?” 

Open-perspective thinking allows us to see past our inherent bias and vanity in order to understand how someone could act and speak in vehement opposition to what we believe in. 

It is the tool that equips us with an empathetic and a curious desire to understand the motivations behind looting, rioting, and those who are passionate about a cause that implicates underprivileged perspectives. It is the device that converts unintentionally destructive tendencies into gestures that acknowledge a problematic gap in economic opportunities. And it is the weapon that we must use to combat our nation’s twin tragedies to overcome these dark times as a society reformed. 

I have spent recent days consciously attempting to recognize and appreciate the opportunities I have been afforded by my white privilege. We cannot bolster the privilege of minority perspectives without first acknowledging that we are a product of a society that inherently values some voices more than others. 

I experience white privilege when I get pulled over by a police officer and reach into my glovebox to locate my proof of insurance as the officer approaches my vehicle.

I experience white privilege when I set off a metal detector alarm and walk away without question or consequence. 

I experienced white privilege when I attended a four-year university without an athletic or academic scholarship. Here, I was given the opportunity to talk, read, and write about social justice alongside professors and colleagues who were almost exclusively also white.

We squander our societal privilege when we fail to utilize our empowered perspectives to promote meaningful reformation to a capitalist society founded upon racial discrimination. 

African-American citizens account for merely 13% of the American population, but they disproportionately account for nearly 33% of COVID-related U.S. deaths.

The U.S. hosts just 4.25% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated individuals, of which 38% are black. 

This is why we are fighting for a vastly underprivileged community pleading, “I can’t breathe.”

This is why we are finally taking the knee.

Brandon Hillary

June 4, 2020

#BLM

The Death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter Movement

2020 continues to be the most socially tumultuous year of the 21st century. In the last few days, the nation-wide headlines have not centered around COVID-19. On May 25, 2020, an African-American man named George Floyd was murdered in plain sight as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the back of Floyd’s neck for almost 10 minutes, suffocating him to death despite pleas to spare his life. This sentence is difficult enough to write, but it is much more difficult to digest and wonder how we can feasibly combat such deeply rooted systemic issues of racial injustice in our country. 

In 2016, San Francisco 49’ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to kneel for the duration of the National Anthem at the beginning of each of their football games, a divisive form of peaceful protest that was not well-received, let alone understood by an overwhelming majority of the (white) population. Today Kaepernick’s motives seem a bit more clear to us all. And if professional athletes were taking the field tonight, they would all assuredly be kneeling. 

Peaceful protests like these broadcasted on national television provided a foundational launching point for serious progress toward addressing the racial discrimination that is prevalent within our US judicial system. Yet here we are, four politically and socially painful years later, and peaceful protests like these hardly garner more than a headline and an occasional nod of acknowledgement. We have a president who openly incites racism, sexism, and classism and outright encourages violence toward marginalized people. It should come as no serious wonder why violent protests like looting, rioting, and arson have usurped kneeling in an attempt to not only be heard, but to evoke serious change to our crooked society. 

While I don’t condone violence, these forms of protest are not the problem; they are the result. Throughout the Black Lives Matter movement violent protests have occurred in response to only one serious form of racial injustice: the blatant discrimination and, all too often, the unlawful murder of black citizens by members of US law enforcement. Why, then, would it make sense to attack the result when we should be attacking the source? If we hope to avoid flipped cars and burned buildings, why not advocate for police accountability, mandatory body cameras, and sufficient training and preparation before equipping them with power and weapons to murder innocent people without their due process. MLK said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” If we had learned anything from the BLM movement, which is now a distinguishable period in US African American history, then why are we still not listening? 

It is critically important to understand that every American is implicated by tragedies like this. George Floyd’s murder not only serves as a haunting reminder that racial injustice still filters throughout the veins of our once progressive country, but it also highlights the gross amount of power and immunity we have allotted to those with money, guns, and racial privilege.

A complicit black man who was not resisting arrest was once again murdered in public by a crew of white police officers because they truly believed there would not be consequences for their actions. You do not have to be black to acknowledge the significant differences in treatment between black and white citizens by the US law enforcement and judicial system. It is entirely heartbreaking to add George Floyd to the list of martyrs who had to give their lives for us to finally establish meaningful social, judicial, and political progress of any substance regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. And while the majority of racially privileged Americans feel empathy during these times, we are still far from meeting the ethical desires of marginalized races in a country that has made few meaningful progressive steps in the last few years. 

Now is not the time to be silent. Silence is comfortable, but it only further validates the idea that racial injustice is too systematically embedded to be considered “our problem.” We have a civic responsibility to honor those who have paid with their lives due to racial injustices, and to save the lives of those who will be met with racial injustice in the future. To be silent is to be complicit, just as three officers were complicit while the fourth crushed the windpipe of an innocent man in the street. 

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends… Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” 

– Martin Luther King

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” 

– George Orwell in his novel 1989, published June 8, 1949

Brandon Hillary

May 30, 2020

#BLM

The #BLM Movement Will Not Respond to Bully Tactics With Silent Resignation

The last four years I have personally opposed the demeanor, vernacular, and decision-making of our commander in chief. And for the last four years, I have diligently exercised patience and respect for those with political opinions that differ from my own. However, Monday night I witnessed crowds of peaceful protesters being beaten and silenced at the hand of their president whom they trusted to liberate them and make their voices heard.

It doesn’t matter if you support Trump or despise him, acknowledge him or turn a blind eye, speak out or remain silent. No matter which of these actions and ideologies you subscribe to, it does not change the fact that we are witnessing one of the greatest threats to American democracy since its foundation. Our president, whom we elected to lead our nation through times of darkness and adversity, chose to remain bunker silent for 48 hours while the nation violently protested against a social issue which can no longer be ignored. Rather than taking those destructive two days to prepare a statement condemning police brutality and comprise a practical plan of action, POTUS and his team announced their solution to commit more power, weaponry, and financial support (tax dollars) to the very institution that rightfully outraged Americans are protesting against. Following his vicious and unsentimental announcement, our fearless leader proceeded to brutally violate citizens’ right to peacefully protest by mowing them with rubber bullets, charging them with riot shields, and silencing them using tear gas, a chemical banned from use during international warfare. 

This heinous crime was Trump’s single most cowardly, authoritarian abuse of power in his four years of presidency – and for what? An attempt to save face by taking a picture in front of a church holding a bible. That’s right. Innocent, peaceful people were beaten, violated, and choked for a presidential photo opportunity, because he doesn’t know what else to do. Pictures and videos of the incident bear a striking resemblance to the Birmingham Campaign of 1963, when protesters were violently bitten by dogs and sprayed with fire hoses in response to their peaceful protests.

The momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement has grown significantly each day alongside our contempt and disgust for the presidential crimes committed against our nation. We have watched painfully as the federal government has cataclysmically botched the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the murder of George Floyd without displaying an ounce of decency, compassion, or an understanding of the societal issues taking place anywhere other than the White House front lawn.

I am saddened and heartbroken for those who have suffered irrevocable damage from the rioting, looting, and arson occurring in the streets all throughout our country. It is devastating to see our entire nation scrambling and desperate for real social and political change. But while I am not uplifted by the violent protests taking place, I have to admit I am sickly comforted knowing that United States Americans will not stand idly by as our country descends into chaos, negligence, and dictatorship. We, as well as our ancestors, founded what was once the greatest country in the world upon the freedom and morality to challenge our government’s misguided responses, educate one another, and collaborate on meaningful social issues that cannot be ignored.

On Monday, Trump relayed this message to state governors: “You have to dominate or you’ll look like a bunch of jerks… You don’t have to be too careful… The only time it’s successful is when you’re weak, and most of you are weak.” Right now, a narcissistic reality TV star threatens the democracy of our nation via his Twitter account from the White House bunker, grossly encouraging the use of excessive force and military to silence our voices and provoke civil warfare. I imagine he will be in an impressive predicament when he realizes the good people of the United States of America will not respond to bully tactics with silent resignation.

In the days since the agonizing viral video of the murder of George Floyd, I have seen the greatest, most unified response in the Black Lives Matter movement’s history. I have seen police officers marching in protest with civilians, black protesters forming a human shield to protect a police officer who was separated from his unit, people with racial privilege physically shielding minority protesters from harm, and activists cleaning the streets in the mornings following riots and looting. Provoking real, lasting change is the next step. 

By the time I first plugged in on Tuesday the social media world had already been deemed #BlackoutTuesday in solidarity to halt our personal posts in favor of listening for a change. While I am moved by the sentiment and appreciative of its intentions, we must remember that if none of us are talking – who are we listening to? My hope is that our collective disdain is not calmed nor hindered by a day of silent solidarity. Too many have been discriminated against, physically violated, and killed in vain for a social issue that cannot continue to be ignored. 

I am not a violent person. I don’t own a weapon outside of a kitchen knife, nor have I ever inserted myself deeply into conflict enough to physically strike or be struck by someone. My tool has always been writing, and so I hope that in some minor way I can contribute to this movement through written support and conviction of the causes that I believe to be essential for us to attain societal morality. While I have been greatly enjoying the journals I have been keeping, I also acknowledge the times when I have used such a platform to post pictures of my dog or what I ate for dinner instead of speaking out about issues that I knew to be critically urgent and important.

While many of us are outraged, it has been difficult to diagnose how we can meaningfully contribute to the dire circumstances we have found our current society engaged with. It can be difficult to overcome feelings of helplessness and singularity, but I have always believed that any minor contribution makes us a part of a collaborative, grassroots movement that is effectively recognized. If you are frustrated with the events that have transpired in our country, here are some ways you can contribute to this urgent social issue:

  1. Make your voice heard. Voice your frustration, contempt, and unacceptance for the current state of our racial, judicial, and political systems. Write, post to social media and other outlets, and share the writing of others whose voice you want to be heard. Speak within your homes about racial privilege, diversity, and what these concepts mean to you. Empathize with a community that has been suffering in unique ways for the entirety of our nation’s existence. 
  2. Donate. I have chosen to donate to an organization that means something to me, and encourage anyone who is financially stable enough to do the same. Even a small donation makes you a contributor to a civil rights entity attempting to promote meaningful social progression. Here is a link to a donation site that splits your donation among several BLM activist groups. Many other options exist too.
  3. Join a peaceful protest, wherever that may be. Encourage the deescalation of violent rioting and looting by the emotionally misguided. Help clean up the streets of your community after violent protests. Do not condone violence, but empathize with those who are making desperate attempts to finally make their voices heard. Listen to those who are in pain. 
  4. Support local small businesses, specifically those owned by minority communities and those negatively affected by riots and looting.
  5. Have real, meaningful conversations with those around you, and confront racism within your community when approached with it. Most of us can remember a time when we silently ignored an act of racism or bigotry, which many of us are now understanding to be detrimental to a cause we all care so deeply about.

“You’re not to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it… If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”

-Malcolm X

Brandon Hillary

June 3, 2020

#BLM

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