I woke up to a text from a friend that said “America is on fire” last Saturday morning, I thought he was over exaggerating and speaking in hyperbole. I was wrong. Last weekend’s protests are a stark reminder of how fed up Americans are with racism and police brutality. This generation has been raised with the internet giving us visibility to worst policing our country has to offer. This current chaos is reminiscent of the Rodney King verdict when the justice system turned a blind eye to a savage beating that was broadcasted all over the world and the riots that followed were the manifestation of anger that had been brewing for generations. George Floyd’s death was this era’s wake up call, this era’s final straw. From Eric Gardner to Philando Castille and the countless others this country has had enough of the excessive unnecessary violence disproportionately affecting the black community. In the past these protests have affected cities far from my home but these events have now reached my back yard in La Mesa, California.
After seeing the 8 freeway shutdown because of the protestors lining up on our local news I jumped on my bike to ride down and see it for myself. As I rode down Jackson I saw riot police lined up on the freeway entrance that I take on my way to work every day, the sight was surreal. I continued to ride under an overpass were I saw police pushing a line of protestors back on the freeway above me as I rode under. As I got closer to the epicenter the crowd was overwhelmingly made up young people and from what I saw was peaceful. “Black Lives Matter” signs were everywhere and that slogan has never been needed more. We live in a country where black lives are disposable, the police have been able to accost them for generations and abuse their rights for too long. These protests are a visual representation of how unsafe it feels to be a black person in the US. These communities have been caught in a paradox of hypocrisy for too long. Just like how these officers who made themselves the judge, jury, and executioner of these black citizens the public has now done the same.
Every police officer takes an oath to serve and protect, not to terrorize, abuse power, and traumatize the people they are called to serve. These people who use their position as public servants to exploit minorities and petrify the future generations are the right hand of true tyranny. It is well known that the vast majority of fatal police shootings go without sufficient investigation and go unpunished. The system always protects the vail of benevolence to further continue its motive of making sure things don’t change. Reform has been needed for decades and this stagnant state of perpetual violence has reached a point where the people have no other choice. Just as Colin Kaepernick knelt during the pledge of allegiance in solidarity against police brutality these riots are made to open the eyes of the public servants to let them know we done waiting for the system to fix itself. Conservative America chose to make it a rally cry and our pervasive President fed that bait to his base. Now with all of this going on I ask you, is if black Americans can’t peacefully protest by creating a true talking point how do you expect them to react? Or is it that white America disregards a critical thinking black American as uppity and disorderly?
As I rode my bike away from the La Mesa protest I thought about how I needed to pump my legs harder to get up a hill to get back to my home but I couldn’t help but think of the juxtaposition of this movement gaining momentum and needing continual pressure on our leaders to finally reform the police. The fight will be fought on many fronts and all races will be needed in solidarity. As a Hispanic I can relate but I can’t compare to how it feels to live in fear of always being on edge no matter if I’m out for jog, bird watching, or playing video games in my home. My existence isn’t loathed at that level. After hundreds of years black people still are fighting for equality, they want acceptance, and like all Americans they want to be truly free.