It’s been a week in the United States.
We started off last Saturday with another mass shooting and ended it yesterday with the release of another video of police officers murdering a Black man. This all feels so repetitive, as if every few months it’s time for our scheduled Terrible, Unpreventable Occurrence that seems to only regularly occur in the United States.
It’s almost farcical how routine this has become. How it seems like finally there’s some flashpoint that surely will herald the change we’ve all been waiting for. Maybe it took a gunman shooting up a preschool for the country to do the bare minimum. Maybe a high school, maybe an elementary school. Maybe a nightclub, a concert, a cinema. But no, the United States refuses to do the bare minimum, despite being the only country in the world where this happens with such regularity.
The frustrating part is that we live in the Information Age; the same machine that gives me this unending parade of disheartening news also lets me know that it doesn’t have to be like this. Countries like New Zealand, Australia, Norway, and the United Kingdom instituted weapon bans and reduced gun deaths. Is it perfect? No, but it’s something, and I would take just something.
The despair deepens when I realize it’s unlikely a massacre at a dancehall or mushroom farm will change anything, especially when the victims are all people of color and if there’s one thing the United States has shown time and time again is how little the country values the life of a person of color.
Speaking of which.
Here we are again. Three years after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders promised a change, which in turn was two years after Botham Jean which was two years after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile which was a year after Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland which was a year after Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. These murders by the police happen like damn clockwork and I worry that my well of outrage has run dry. That every time it happens, I see the news alert on my phone and my response is an apathetic shrug to another one and not indignation and horror that this could be considered business as usual — and it is, since for every name that we remember there are many more that we ignore. American police killed over a thousand people last year and show no sign of slowing down. This violence is no anomaly, it’s the police doing what they’re meant to, fulfilling the mandate from their origins as slave patrols 200 hundred years ago.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Other countries have figured out solutions to public safety that don’t involve a paramilitary force. There are places where traffic stops don’t regularly end in death. It doesn’t have to be this way. And yet time after time, change doesn’t happen. Police budgets across the United State skyrocketed in 2021, even as government officials promised to change things in the wake of 2020.
I hate that I feel like I could reuse this blogpost in a few months, change some dates and names and it’ll be as relevant then as it is now. It’s disheartening and, as the years go by, it feels more and more like change isn’t possible.
But I can’t believe that.
I don’t want to believe that there is no hope for things to be different. I have to hope that the world can be better. I wish I had a tidier button for this post, I wish that I had some solution. But all I can think to do is to find ways to keep pushing for change and to keep hoping that maybe, someday, things will be different.