Views expressed in this blog are mine alone and are not intended to represent Williamson County policy nor intended as legal advice.
We’ve all seen the protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We’ve watched the video of his murder, in all or part, on social media or cable news. We’ve argued over whether the violence taking place at some protests, the looting and damage being done, is being done by the Black community or outside instigators. Quotes from Rev. Martin Luther King are appearing on my Facebook feed as some try to remind people of his non-violent approach. Others are responding with images and reminders of what happened to King and his fellow protesters.
Getting caught up in arguments regarding tactics, violence, looting, and property damage is a way to avoid talking about why the community is protesting. Set that argument aside and ask yourself, why are people protesting, not just in Minneapolis but across the country and across the world? How long must a community restrain themselves in the face of oppression, prejudice, and indiscriminate danger from those in authority and those who take authority upon themselves? How long? A year? A decade? A lifetime? A century or two or four?
How many people must die at the hands of the police before we all ask, what the hell is going on?
It’s heartening to see some police chiefs and officers joining the protests or speaking directly with the community to try to understand their concerns. At the same time, just this weekend in Austin, 3 people were seriously injured by police shooting “less lethal” rounds into protesters. A pregnant Black woman was struck in the back and abdomen. A 20-year old Black male is in critical care. A young Latino man was also injured. Many others are claiming various injuries that the APD Police Chief Manley did not address, including one medic who reported being fired upon when trying to assist an injured person despite being clearly marked as a first responder. Tear gas was fired at protesters blocking IH-35 to disperse the crowd.
Meanwhile, the White House turned off its lights Sunday night.
51 years ago, this June, another protest took place in New York City, led in part by a Black transwoman. She and her friends were protesting police brutality against their community. June has been designated LGBTQ Pride Month in the US to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that kicked started the LGBTQ rights movement. It’s no coincidence that a Black woman led those protests. Marsha Johnson would be marching today if she was still alive.
So, it is in solidarity with my Black friends, family members, and in-laws, that I stand today to remind all of you that our fight is not done. While LGBTQ rights have made great strides in recent years, there is still much that menaces our community. Likewise, equal rights for African Americans are far from assured. Their very safety is threatened daily by racial profiling, white supremacists, and casual racists.
There is no greater form of protest for us as Americans than to go to the ballot box and vote out those who perpetuate this systemic racism, homophobia, and transphobia. When the Texas Legislature is in session next, watch the bills and speak out against those that would further discrimination in any form. Spend a day at the Capitol and let your voice be heard by giving public comment. Find out whatever you can about the people running for municipal and county positions. Those people have a direct impact on your life and on local law enforcement.
Do you want to see change, real change, happen in your community? Then get involved. Pay attention. Listen to the groups most impacted by systemic injustices. Take racial equity training. Attend your local Pride events. Open your heart and your mind. And above else, love your fellow citizens no matter what they look like or who they love.