12.10.2014

Zun Lee on "Getting Lost in the Shuffle"

Zun Lee
I haven't posted in a week - I needed a week off from it all. Part of me was exhausted and frustrated. Another part of me needed to regroup to get back to basics.

I appreciate the energy and inspiration provided by the national movement for justice, but the original problematic context is beginning to get lost for me. We keep focusing on case-specific details and legal or procedural technicalities. We focus on bad police practices and excessive use of force. Sometimes, these conversations are contextualized by race. Often times, race is denied as a factor in the case-by-case analysis. As the movement grows in to a national conversation, I’m witnessing a gradual dilution of the conversation re. the factors that led to where we are now.

This wasn’t just about outrage in response to the killing of Eric Garner or Mike Brown. Many souls were lost before them, and unfortunately, many will be lost after. There are long-standing frustrations in response to decades or even centuries of continued overt and insidious forms of oppression that are systemic and structural. Police brutality and racial profiling are manifestations of the issue but they aren’t its root cause. Failing, under-resourced schools are one aspect, but not the root cause. The prison-industrial complex. A media and entertainment industry that glorifies ignorance, dysfunction and pathology. The unequal lack of access to quality healthcare and healthy food options. Redlining practices and access to affordable housing. These are all symptoms, but not the root cause. It all goes back to one issue we are still unwilling to confront or talk about, and that issue is white supremacy. (NB: if you’re conflating white supremacy with the stuff that certain bedsheets-wearing individuals think and do, please stop right here and unfollow me.)

There are very specific reasons the Mike Brown killing persisted as a lightning rod in ways other similar cases didn’t. Many cities in the US are microcosms of all the above issues but based on how the specific history of St. Louis and St. Louis County shaped Ferguson’s present-day reality, the effects of white supremacy happened to be magnified there for the entire world to see.

As we move from wearing hoodies, to “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” to “I Can’t Breathe”, and – undoubtedly – on to the next catch phrase in a few months, I fear that context is not only shifting, it is getting lost in the shuffle. And moreover, we keep our eyes glued on the ultra-engaging protest drama, but lose sight on what this was originally about. And again, as much as Trayvon Martin’s case wasn’t about inappropriate clothing, or Jordan Davis wasn’t about “loud music”, the current fatalities are not just about use of excessive force by trigger-happy police.

I’m not interested in visuals of the knee-jerk reactions or temporary band-aids. I’m hoping to shed some light on the wound that continues to fester underneath. That work is not dramatic. It’s not sexy. It’s not “protest-y.” But I realize that’s always going to be what I’m about: The untold, forgotten, non-newsworthy stories of those on whose behalf we profess to protest.

#blacklivesmatter because #wealwaysmattered, not just now. But as the media circus moves on from Ferguson to elsewhere, the local community is realizing that after months of world-wide attention #weallwegot
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2 comments:

  1. I love him! This is beyond awesome and he's dropping some real truth here. Thank you Zun Lee.

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  2. "(NB: if you’re conflating white supremacy with the stuff that certain bedsheets-wearing individuals think and do, please stop right here and unfollow me.)" A+++++

    I really appreciate that he put that in the post since no white sheets = racism is dead! I can never understand that sentiment so I enjoy the complete depth of knowledge that was in Zun Lee's post.

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