By Guest Contributor: Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin (@KaelaMeiShing)
Black lives matter. Full stop. Any discussion of police violence against American lives must begin and end with (and consist of) the experience of black and brown people in our country. If we are to end police brutality, that must be our main focus. It’s not for us to make metaphors, excuses, or pander to nonblack people. Black and brown people are being gunned down in the street, and our job as citizens must be to center on the issues; our activism must not center on our own guilt or our own lives but those of others.
I, however, am a hypocrite. I’m about to pander in a big way.
This week, I attended a protest in New York City which started at Union Square, organized by NYC Shut It Down, “a multiethnic, multigenerational group of anti-heteropatriarchal activists who fight against militarized policing and racial injustice,” in their own words. “Don’t waste your time arguing with people who don’t believe in the cause,” a speaker had told us at the beginning of the night, “but mobilize your own people.” I paraphrase: words were swallowed in the crush of people, but I was deeply struck by this sentiment.
So this essay is for my people: the well-meaning Asian, white, and racially “other” liberals like me, liberals with our hearts and minds in the right place and our actions slow to catch up. It’s for us pandering, guilt-motivated people who cry watching yet another video of police brutality, post “Black Lives Matter” on facebook, and then go about our day, the pain of what we saw dissipating as the hours accumulate. It’s not for people who don’t care about black lives; it’s for those who do. If you don’t already believe in dismantling the system, in righting its institutional wrongs, you can feel free to look away now, to return to your life of ignorance; you are not my people.