“As I have prayed for my son’s healing, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country…We are the United States. Have we been united? Do you understand what’s going to happen when we fall? Because a house that is against each other cannot stand. To all of the police officers, I’m praying for you and your families. To all of the citizens, my Black and brown sisters and brothers, I’m praying for you. I believe that you are an intelligent being just like the rest of us. Everybody, let’s use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other.”
Julia Jackson said those words. Ms. Jackson is the mother of Jacob Blake, the 29 year old man, shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Her son is fighting for his life and somewhere within her, she found compassion. She could have, but didn’t, call for blood. She rose above the fray. She was not going to be the violence and racist chaos that is America. As was said in Minneapolis weeks back by Kimberly Jones, America is lucky Black people want equality, and not revenge.
We have been here before. Rodney King, still traumatized from the brutal beating he suffered at the hands of four police officers, also made a similar plea for peace as Los Angeles burned in riots when the officers who nearly beat him to death were exonerated. King’s famous “Can We All Get Along Speech?” is similar in tone as Jackson’s but likewise, lost now, in the reality of America’s locked and loaded white supremacist society.
These pleas by ordinary citizens for compassion and even forgiveness and peace was also the story in Charleston, S.C. Dylan Roof, a white supremacist, slaughtered nine black church worshipers inside church as they prayed. Roof, now on death row, was extended forgiveness by some family members of those murdered.
Patience is thin on the forgiveness ideal and the unity question. The killing of Black people is so old of a story now with no sign of it ending that many Black people are fresh out of compassion. Not only do unarmed Black people continue to be shot and killed by police officers but millions of people defend the shootings. They then pivot and trash the victim’s character and spin the killings to fit into a racist, inhumane model for society. White supremacy has rendered any situation incapable of being looked at in a rational manner.
The talk now with Jacob Blake is he was shot because he had a knife in his car. A knife? I ask: if Blake had a gun or two guns, and the officers had knives, whose life was in danger? The officers were not in danger. They did the most extreme thing they could have done in that situation.
Racists on social media are already untruthfully spreading dirty rumors that Blake is a pediophile and a child rapist. It is sick and this is a sick society. Defense attorneys for officers in the George Floyd case are now claiming Floyd killed himself with fentanyl. Two coroners have issued findings that counter that idea.
There is a pattern to all of this. Rudy Guiliani when he was mayor of New York City basically invented this tactic. Police shoot someone, go pull their juvenile record. Leak it to the media. Build the thought in the minds of people: this person is less than human. They are not worthy of our care.
It is a sick, sick practice. It is also why, despite the passionate words of Julia Jackson, and the equally important question Rodney King asked, it is hard to embrace what they are saying totally. We understand but they fall short now.
The killing and maiming of unarmed Black people is part of a historical pattern and legacy. It won’t change with kind words. It will change with struggle, civil disobedience and by setting goals to achieve. The energy of the protests is welcome. The issue has been made clear. The U.S. has a P.W. Botha/Jim Crow police system in far too many police departments. It should be dismantled. Something new should come into existence.
Letetra Widman, the sister of Jacob Blake, said it well in the aftermath of the shooting of her brother: