Today’s America is a reactionary society: one that is immobilized by the daily grind until an event indicative of what oppresses us every day smacks headlines and neighborhoods, and it shakes us to show that we’re still fighting for freedom.

Now that national uproar in anti-police brutality protests has reduced to a simmer, I’m wondering what our next steps are in affecting legal and cultural transformation. The reality of institutional racism, which is manifesting through these cases, is a reality whose disruption is long overdue. I’m weary that because it’s so long overdue, the force of our retaliation has placed emphasis on interpersonal race relations rather than methodically deconstructing what’s kept those race relations in place for so long.

What I’ve seen trending is a sobering dose of racial divide that’s distracting from the greater issue. I’m white and I get it: I’m privileged, convenienced, and whatever other racially coded buzzword, and I am neither guilted nor disheartened by those labels circulating online posts. I’ll tell you though, that rubbing peoples’ whiteness in their face will not earn us the engagement that’s needed to uproot systemic racial oppression. We are dividing under the guise of stereotyped whiteness versus non-whiteness.

And that’s not what this is about. Racism is no longer identified by the beliefs, behaviors, and actions of others — more than ever, it’s about how we operate within a “colorblind” society. In our globalized world we are so much bigger than our selves. We are who we work for, where we live, what we buy, a microscopic representation of our extended communities. We’ve got to keep our critical eye not on each other but on the systems that operate our society — systems we fund with our tax dollars — and most importantly, the way justice is served.

The sweeping anger that’s fueled our assembly in anti-police brutality protests across the nation has spoken powerfully to the human capacity for empathy, and that is a beautiful thing. But this anger, when turned toward each other and channeled into aimlessness destruction as it was in the Oakland protests and Berkeley marches, is when our efforts become counterproductive.

During one of the reputedly peaceful Berkeley marches I witnessed multiple fights among protesters, charged by racial and homosexual slurs. Some yelled for it to stop, that we were in this together, and others chose sides. On the Monday night of the Ferguson verdict, the first night of the protests, people (multi-racial millennial) looted a Smart and Final of its booze and either ran off or got drunk around a dumpster set on fire, taking selfies and passing blunts.

These scenarios are what come up in Google searches. This is the violence that the media capitalizes on, the juice that gossip is made of. Why are we really here, everyone?

It’s true that there has always been (to my knowledge) some form of violent retaliation against the mainstream in pursuit of social justice, from the Civil Rights Movement of the ’60s to the Arab Spring a few years ago. It’s also true that recklessness demands attention more suddenly than does peaceful demonstration. But what has transcended violence in revolutions past and has granted at least a portion of what people aimed for, is the localized, persistent, and relentless demand for change.

We cannot let this fire dwindle only to be reignited somewhere down the line by other emblematic injustices and continue the reactionary cycle of blame, alienation and violence. We cannot lose our sense of urgency in this fight for reform, and must consciously pursue it every day and in every way to see through to a future we’re proud to pass on.

I’m not offering answers to how we can overthrow an oppression so integral because I don’t have them. I am at a loss, but with open ears and honest dedication to being part of necessary societal, economic and political reconstruction. My hope is that this piece gains traction in an inclusive and conducive rhetoric of how exactly it is that Americans can be revolutionary by breaking down and rebuilding what is wrought with corruption in the agencies that we uphold to “serve and protect” us.

About The Author

Simone writes about the currents circulating beneath mainstream, with a focus on non-profit developments and at-risk youth enrichment. Outside of freelancing for Oakland Local, she works in the foster care system of Contra Costa County and nerds out on literary magazines. Simone also spearheads the Community Voices section of OL. Contact her at simonelarson@oaklandlocal.com

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