Many people on my more personal platforms of media have already seen this essay of sorts which I posted in response to this video that was shared to my Facebook page. The range of emotions I experienced while watching it (and I did watch the whole thing) was shocking, and once my heart rate slowed enough to write a response, this is what came of it.
This is “Part 1” of my response, to which I am currently writing “Part 2.” I want to share it here when I finish it, so I figured I would preface it with a re-post of the first installment with some minor adjustments while I work. It goes through the video mostly chronologically but there are also time stamps with the references if you want to hear them!
This part by no means covers all of what was said by Brandon Tatum in his YouTube video posted by TheScoop, but it’s a good starting point as I try to dive deeper into a lot of things like White Supremacy, White Privilege, virtue signaling, and the weaponization of Black voices to prove White points. For now, here are some thoughts and facts on the protests, looting, police brutality, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more. Black Lives Matter. Here is my essay Part 1:
First, checking our sources right now is incredibly important. Sharing information and facts – and feelings as well, but the difference there is important – is vital in these very strange times. When videos like this are shared without sources backing up the information, it spreads mis-information, which can be dangerous to this movement – or any movement, for that matter.
Starting with his first question: “What have you accomplished?” That’s just it – nothing. Not yet. (At the time of writing this, we had not yet accomplished the changes we have begun to see.) That’s why people are gathering and connecting and supporting each other in this movement. This is only the beginning. The goal is change.
To address the issue of looting during the protests that Tatum addresses first, no, looting small, family owned businesses will not help the movement, but the anger in the shattered windows and the broken cities is justified. Of course it’s okay to be sad about the Targets, or the Old Navys – I know my heart broke a little bit as a Partner when they panned over a completely destroyed Starbucks in Downtown Seattle – but it’s important to realize that large companies have larger insurance policies. While they may still be hurt by the rioting and the recent pandemic changes, they have more resources to bounce back from things like this.
If you want to support smaller business that have been targeted in the protests and were also going through hardships due to COVID-19, check out a few of these resources on GoFundMe. I’m sure you can find specific business local to you as well, and if you have any other resources for small businesses, please post a link in the comments!
The rioting may not be seen as effective to a lot of people, but The Stonewall Riots are a great example of how protesting and rioting has set actual legal change in motion. The LGBTQIA+ community survived in a world where they could not live. They had laws against the way they expressed themselves, laws against who they loved, and so much more. The raid at the Stonewall Inn was the last straw, and from the protests and the push back, we gained gay rights and we gained Pride Month which shows support for LGBTQIA+ individuals internationally. From Stonewall, my generation has opportunities that previous generations did not. We are freer to express ourselves publicly and live our lives as we were always meant to.
People have a right to be angry, especially when the Black community has faced significant adversity throughout the whole of American history. The looting isn’t right, but the reason people are so upset about it is wrong. One of my favorite online thoughts I have seen among the many that resonated with me is “You keep saying ‘It’s horrible that an innocent Black man was killed, but destroying property has to stop.’ Try saying ‘it’s horrible that property is being destroyed, but killing innocent Black [people] has to stop.’” I think this quote puts things into perspective quite nicely.
This is not about one man. This is not about George Floyd alone. This is about all of them. All of us.
White people are learning. Many of us are trying to learn how we can do better. I know that, personally, I could have been better my whole life. I feel guilty that I haven’t taken as big of a stand before now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start now. That doesn’t mean I can’t share information, resources, support, for the Black community and the POC community – for my friends who fall in those categories who I have always supported, but who I could have been supporting better.
My next few responses will be to points Tatum shares in the first few minutes of his video where he is addressing Black people. I plan to write an additional response paper to the latter half of the video where he addresses White privilege and virtue signaling.
It is difficult for me to find a place to start here, but let’s start with a quote and some statistics. Tatum states “Everybody knows that just because you are unarmed doesn’t mean you’re not a threat” (2:55). While this is true, I think it is really important to consider the reaction of shooting or attacking first. Being an officer can be a scary job, no question about it. However, there are a number of ways to safely respond to a threat, especially if the person you view as threatening is unarmed. Police have tools for non-lethal force, and they have training on proper ways to restrain people for arrests. Kneeling on someone’s neck while they beg for breath is not one of them (George Floyd). Holding someone in a choke hold while they repeatedly scream “I can’t breathe” is not one of them (Eric Garner).
Tatum also states that “Most Black people do not have negative interactions with police officers” (2:44), and “nine African-Americans were shot who were unarmed… for the sake of argument, only nine people have had a negative interaction with a police officer that lead to their death. Out of 44 million Black people in this country” (2:53 – 3:07). There are a few things that are problematic with these statements. First, Black people are far more likely to have negative encounters with the police, and they are at least three times more likely to be killed by police than White people according to this website (and I’m certain many other sources as well). POC in general are more likely to be killed in police encounters (looking at the statistics for Hispanic people as well). Studies have also shown disproportionate and racially biased actions against the Black community by police. One that I remember studying in a psychology course was this study by Frances Heussmann in 1971 (shown as an example after the explanations of a proper experiment setup). Although I cannot find her official paper on the study, she may not have one published because of its early end due to lack of funding. If anyone has the source for her personal account of her study, feel free to let me know! Although three different ethnicities were represented in her student pool, every single one of them had a perfect driving record, never having been so much as cited by officers. Heussmann placed bumper stickers showing support of the Black Panther Party on each of the students’ vehicles, and within two hours there had already been an arrest of a participant. Heussmann wasn’t able to complete her study, but the information she did get from that short amount of time was significant.
I also want to address the part of the statement where Tatum claims that only nine out of 44 million Black people in the united states have had negative interactions with police which ended their lives. I’m not sure where he got this information, but this database from the Washington Post shows that there were at least 15 unarmed Black people shot and killed by police in 2019. This does not include those who had a weapon (which includes vehicles and toys in the mix), nor those who were killed by other means, nor other POC who are not Black.
Comparing the number of unarmed Black people who were killed by police to the total number of Black people in the country at the time also dangerously skews the information. 44 million is a big number, and (falsely) saying that less than ten of that 44 million have had negative and fatal encounters with police leaves out a lot of information. What about those who did not have fatal encounters who were harassed and have lived fearfully ever since? What about those who may have been in possession of a weapon but were reaching for their wallets to cooperate? What about them? What about the other 43,999,981 people who have their own stories, who may have never been pulled over or arrested or searched or harassed by police? This statement makes it sound like only 0.0000002% of Black people had negative interactions with police. Dangerously skewed.
I will end Part 1 of my response by mentioning a few names in response to Tatum’s statement cutting to 2020 that “this year there’s been three [deaths of Black people killed by police]” (3:08). He goes on to speak about Breonna Taylor, claiming that she “got caught up in a warrant in the crossfire for miscommunication with her boyfriend, who she didn’t tell that she was knee deep… in the drug game” (3:13). Once again, it is unclear where Tatum got this information. Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old EMT who was killed in her own home by officers without uniforms on. There was no miscommunication except for the idea that there were drugs being stashed in her home, in which they found none. The officers knew that Taylor’s home was far from that of the suspects they were investigating, and were supposed to be able to search hers because they thought one of the suspects had used it as a delivery location. Yes, the police had a “no-knock warrant,” but they did not have any reason to fatally shoot Taylor (or her boyfriend, who as a licensed gun owner was trying to protect himself and Taylor from a break in) for what they suspected was possession of drugs.
Although there are many other people who deserve to be recognized here as well – Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and of course countless more – I will speak only on Tatum’s statements about George Floyd for now. “Some of y’all didn’t even know who George Floyd was,” he begins (5:32). Tatum continues by making claims about Floyd’s past. Many counter arguments directed towards the unrest over the murder of George Floyd cite his “violent past,” and Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police union, calls the protests “a terrorist movement” because of it. Floyd’s family has been open about the ups and downs of his life and emphasized that it was turning up and that he was bettering himself. Accounts of his employer shared his willingness to help and his close relationships with other employees. According to the above cited sources, he was murdered for possible possession of a counterfeit $20, another fact Tatum seems to skew in his video.
Although Floyd was seemingly moving upwards and becoming better for himself and his family, that doesn’t make it any more wrong that he was killed by police. No matter who he was as a person, his death – his murder – was wrong.
The bottom line is this: no amount of information about who George Floyd was – whether good or bad – or what he was doing that led to his arrest and then murder, will ever justify Derek Chauvin’s actions, or the inaction of the three officers who did nothing to stop him. No amount of information about any of the Black people killed before even being arrested, before getting a fair trial on their actions – whether they were breaking the law or were not – will ever justify their deaths.
And I’m just barely getting started here.
I want to finish this off by emphasizing that I am a White Ally and I am open to critique and suggestions on my words. I want to use them to help draw attention to these issues, not to hurt them, so please feel free to add on to the discussion in the comments, send me a message, or anything else that will help me improve. I am here to grow as a person, and I hope I can help others grow too!