The USA is presently in turmoil as decent people stand up against racist cops killing black people. Again.
Thing is, we’ve been here before. So as always we should ask “does it matter?”
A man accused of a minor crime (like spending a fake $20 bill), should not have his neck crushed and the life choked out him. That’s the immediate background to everything that’s happening and if anything in politics should matter, it’s stuff like this.
There is a much longer background too, going right back to slavery and apartheid. More pertinent, however, is that in the decades since the civil rights movement black people have been disproportionately targeted by police in America, killed by police in America, and locked up by police in America.
White racists have even turned “calling the police” into a violent threat they can use against the hated black man.
So What Has Changed?
In some regards nothing has changed. Cops kill Americans all the time and every few years protests happen about it. Then protestors go home and police continue killing Americans.
In other regards, everything has changed. The police response has been highly diverse rather than uniform. Some police have ramped up the violence while others have signed compacts, taken the knee and even danced with protestors. In other instances cops have turned on eachother.
Meanwhile, far from call for calm or express sympathy like past presidents, Trump has sided with the racists as best he can for electoral reasons – making things worse.
So it matters then?
All of this matters if, far from a typical overspill of anger, it actually delivers change this time. Sadly the record of protests achieving that is poor. There is, however, cause for optimism.
If past protests workd George Floyd would still be breathing. Short term success has been achieved this time, however – hence his killers have been charged.
More importantly, where once the rise of CCTV seemed like a move to a big brother state, the rise of camera phones has empowered citizens to fight back against the state. Police abuse is now often filmed by the abused and dirty tricks like turning off body cams before the cops kill someone are probably over.
From lies about “accidents” or “resisting arrest” the worst police abuse is being brought out into the open and then wider public doesn’t like what it sees.
But Maybe it Doesn’t Matter
The problem with the police getting caught on camera is that there still has to be sufficient pressure to act on it. That can’t just be done through endless protest. Defences about there being worse problems or about how they have a tough job may yet excuse the survival of a terrible police culture.
That is a real risk while the President and Republicans try very hard to stay on the side of racist fans. If you wonder why the President won’t say “Black Lives Matter” and why so many republicans have pushed blue or white lives mattering instead, the reason is November 3rd.
It would be lovely to think that a vast majority of Americans want police to stop being racist but 60 years of Republican voter targeting shows that’s not true. The Southern Strategy worked and Republicans are thus unwilling to give up loyal “identity politics” voters.
So in every state that Republicans win, racist cops will breathe easier than they should, and the lives of good cops will be harder.
Of course Trump and the Republicans might lose. Even if they don’t lose this time they will eventually. The Southern Strategy has been faltering for a long time and mobile phone cameras are not going away. So the horrors of police brutality will continue reaching people who are otherwise complacent.
All over the rest of the world too, solidarity protests rose up in support of Americans – especially in light of the American State attacking democratic protestors with tear gas for a presidential photo op.
These trends all point one way. Good Americans (black and white) deserve a better America sooner rather than later and have a lot of domestic and international good will behind them. Even if these aren’t the last Black Lives Matter protests American needs to go through, resistance to progress now seems futile.