Jun 12: Rayshard Brooks is shot and killed by police in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta. The restaurant is burned down the next day. The shooter is later charged with murder and his partner charged with aggrieved assault. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs a package of bills aiming to reform parts of policing in the state, including banning chokeholds and repealing a decades-old state law that has kept police disciplinary records secret. The bills also include measures making it easier to sue people who call police on others without good reason. Trump reschedules his Tulsa rally that was set for Juneteenth and rolls back health care protections for transgender people.
If racism is a virus in American culture, we have seen attempts to eradicate it before. The federal government under President Grant’s Attorney General, Amos Ackerman—a reformed slave-owner himself—stomped on the virus of the Ku Klux Klan in the the early 1870s. He “flattened the curve” of their domestic terrorism. Yet, after Ackerman was pushed out for zealously prosecuting the Republican railroad robber barons, no one continued Ackerman’s efforts. Consequently the virus of pro-Confederacy, anti-Black violence, often supported by state and local government was allowed to fester through the 1870s, through the turn of the century.
Pushed back, but never eradicated, anti-Black violence rebounded through the 1910s, celebrated by erecting monuments to the defeated Confederacy–monuments that sprung up from Texas to Virginia. Then a second major outbreak of violence pushed African Americans off their own land in the 1920s-40s and into the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Buffalo, Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Gary, and many others. Neglect of the poor, rural, and largely minority parts of the United States was de facto government policy for over eighty years. Neglect, though less malignant now, continues into the twenty-first century. It’s still like that in Lowndes County, Alabama, even when it was made de jure illegal in DC.
And so, before they are lost again to an America eager to move onto fresh outrages, rather than dealing with the seeping wounds from the past left unhealed, the chants in the streets from people who have never been treated as if they matter need to be remembered. They are calls for a kind of justice that, after 1871, the United States has only pretended to pursue. Here is what we chanted at a Black Lives Matter protest in Tuscaloosa, Alabama today:
CALLER: Black Lives Matter
RESPONSE: Black Lives Matter
CALLER: Hands up!
RESPONSE: Don’t Shoot!
CALLER: Say their name!
RESPONSE: Which one?
CALLER: How many?
RESPONSE: Too many!
CALLER: Say his name!
RESPONSE: George Floyd!
CALLER: Say her name!
RESPONSE: Breonna Taylor!
CALLER: Get your knees off my neck!
RESPONSE: Get your knees off my neck!
CALLER: No justice!
RESPONSE: No Peace!
CALLER: No racist
CALLER: I can’t breathe!
RESPONSE: I can’t breathe!
CALLER: Take your knees off me!
RESPONSE: Take your knees off me!
@ianhoppe, “The Origins of the Black Panther Party in Alabama,” AL.com, August 16, 2016. https://youtu.be/eL9po1jD8q4
“Shields and Brooks on Americans’ changing views of policing,” PBS NewsHour, June 12, 2020. https://youtu.be/6ycQMXrcE2c
Right-wing Youtube influencer, Mark Dice, responding to the celeb video, “I Take Responsibility.” Mark Dice, “So Sad,” June 12, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdoBIO2z_Kk
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Honey, Michael K. “What Happened to Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream of Economic Justice?” Time, February 20, 2020. https://time.com/5783976/martin-luther-king-jr-economic-justice/.
* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020), the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (https://www.justsecurity.org/69650/timeline-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic-and-u-s-response/), the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (theweek.com), as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.