Taking an Eye, Taking a Knee

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Linda Tirado was shot by police on Friday, May 29. “I was aiming my next shot, put my camera down for a second, and then my face exploded,” she told the New York Times. She is a photojournalist, who had press credentials and a camera, and was covering the protests in Minneapolis. She lost her eye.

Soren Stevenson was shot by police on Sunday on University Avenue. “I’ll never be able to see out of this eye and I believe they’ll be removing this eye at a certain point,” he told CBS News. He was at a peaceful protest, well before the 8 p.m. curfew, friends said.

Both were shot with what the police call “less-than-lethal” weapons, what most people call rubber bullets. Though technically non-lethal, these weapons can maim and kill.

Tirado and Stevenson were two among hundreds of people shot with rubber bullets, tear gas canisters, and flash-bang grenades, in Minneapolis and across the country this past week. Police generally approached demonstrators or just groups or individuals and shot—without warning, without the “move along now” that is ordinary practice.

Although they lost eyes, Tirado and Stevenson are lucky. George Floyd was killed by another “less-than-lethal” weapon: the knees of two police officers pressing down on his neck and back.

Tweets from “5’7″ Black Male” make the point:

“White people have been treated like Black people by the police for a WEEK and suddenly every state is pondering defunding cops. This is what it takes every damn time.”

Here’s just a little of what he is talking about:

  • Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger chased down and shot to death in Georgia on February 23. His killers: white men driving a pickup truck with a confederate flag sticker. Arbery’s murder, though caught on video, was ignored for six long weeks.
  • Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in her own home in Louisville, KY on March 13. Police with a no-knock warrant battered down the door in the middle of the night. Her boyfriend, thinking they were robbers or worse, fired a shot to defend himself and Breonna—the answering fusillade of bullets killed the 26-year-old EMT. (Oh, yeah: no narcotics were found, no body cameras were turned on.)
  • On June 1, police in Vallejo, CA shot and killed Sean Monterrosa—an unarmed 22-year-old kneeling in the street with his hands up.
  • David McAtee was at his barbecue stand in Louisville on Monday night when police descended on the corner to break up the crowd of people out after curfew. First they fired pepper balls into the crowd, and then they killed McAtee. In earlier days, McAtee fed police for free.

5’7″ Black Male: “I can both be glad that the presence of more white bodies than usual at protest was a catalyst for potential political change while also being absolutely livid that Black people being brutalized and killed was not enough alone to shock white consciences nationwide.”

Yes.

Over the past ten days, police in Minneapolis and across the country deliberately targeted journalists. That was their mistake. Unlike young black men targeted every day all over the country, journalists have audiences. Suddenly, all over the country, #BlackLivesMatter is trending on lawn signs and television commercials, and getting a 50% approval rating in one poll. All over the country, people are taking a knee for George Floyd.

A final word of advice from 5’7″ Black Male:

“If you’re having an epiphany about racism this week this doesn’t make you better than anyone who didn’t

It makes you late to the game.

Don’t be smug or self-righteous.

Share your journey with other white people like someone who has missed the point forever and finally got it.”

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