In the US we are seeing events echo our experience of conflict. It is impossible for us to sit in Ireland and not recognise police brutality and state impunity, its intent and form.
The first White question asked about George Floyd’s death was “what had he done”? When announcing that he had “tried to pass counterfeit money” and that he had “resisted police officers” the state framed the arrest and mortal violence. The Police Department in Minneapolis released a
statement immediately. They had immediately swung into the tried and tested rationalisation for killing a black man. Normally this would exonerate police officers but mobile phone and CCTV images demonstrating George Floyd’s passivity and execution lit flames.
Every single killing by the British state in Ireland, and many killings carried out as a result of collusion, was first known about as a result of state issued press releases to a generally compliant media who immediately carried it. The statements always “explained” why the person was killed, man, womanor child. The statements always criminalised the deceased man, woman or child and their community. The first story became the believed story. And that narrative remains believed to this day. Bereaved families have to “prove” otherwise, if they want to have the truth told.
The reaction of a community with nothing to lose, who have been promised “reform” since 18th December 1865 but see no change, is now the focus. The reactions are deliberately used to deflect from the calls for justice for an entire population. I was struck by a Facebook post that said “you do not know how to function in a normal society”. It remains the fault of Black America that the system does not work for Black America. Overt racism is given a veneer of shop–owning respectability and blame lands on the backs of the oppressed. How familiar does that sound?
Our community recognises when a system is built to never deliver justice, to obscure fact from cover up, to deny change through the smoke and mirrors of nice words. A community will try to burn it down. When you have nothing to lose a burning car reflects your flames of anger, not loss of property. And there is a convenient comfortable narrative that then emerges which condemns the actions of the angry, tells them to go home and displaces the rotten injustice of the system.
We will also recognise the words of “moderates”, who rely on a system working if more cheeks are turned and more backs are stood on, who condemn the actions of the dispossessedwith more heat than they perfunctorily speak to the injustice behind them. Those who paint those who draw a line and say no more as “too” radical, or “too” uncomfortable.
The actions of Black America inspired those who sought change in the North of Ireland. Those who sought change were shot, beaten, and interned. Their children were shot in the head with plastic and rubber bullets. Our peace settlement is built on the sacrifice of those who refused to go home.
Potentially White America is irreformable for Black America. It is clear Black America is not going home so we do not know where we will end up but this much is true, our world is better for the stand they take.