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Editorial: When we speak the language of the unheard, they listen

Editorial: When we speak the language of the unheard, they listen

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There’s not much say about the evil that murdered George Floyd, at least not much that hasn’t been already said. Those familiar with El Tecolote should be familiar with our stance when it comes to the killing of unarmed Black, Indigenous and People of Color by police.

But some of you may wonder why a legacy Latino publication such as this would dedicate space in its pages to denounce the murder of yet another unarmed Black man. 

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The answer is simple: Our fight is the same fight. 

In the time since the video of George Floyd being murdered by Minneapolis police on May 25 went viral on social media, demonstrations have erupted across the U.S., with Americans taking to the streets to express their pain and frustration. From Minneapolis to Atlanta, from New York to the Bay and beyond, police precincts and patrol cars have been set ablaze. Windows of predatory banking institutions were smashed. The property of various corporations was appropriated and redistributed to the people. 

These uprisings are not, as elected officials from both sides of the isle have claimed, “disgracing the memory of George Floyd,” nor that of Ahmaud Arbery, nor Breonna Taylor, nor Tony McDade, all of whom were murdered by police last month. Rather, they are the spontaneous expression of collective outrage from people who’ve been told to sit patiently, that change is on the way, that police reform is possible if you vote for the lesser of two evils—this while Black and Brown men and women continue to die in the street and in their homes. 

Those who condemn this sort of uprising predictably invoke the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. in their calls for peaceful demonstrations, but such invocations always seem to omit that King’s pacifism was met with violence. 

Consider the following: 

How quick our elected leaders were to calculate the cost of broken windows and burning buildings, yet they have never bothered to calculate the sum owed to descendants of those whose forced labor built the foundation for the United States’ prosperity. 

How those in mainstream media condemned the destruction of luxury stores and corporate property, yet shrugged at the images of dogs being unleashed on Native Americans defending their land in Standing Rock.

How quick reporters were to label the demonstrators as looters, conveniently leaving out that the land on which we stand today was looted, taken violently by force from the original inhabitants of this continent. Or that the United States has been looting Latin America and the Middle East for decades. Or that the rich in this country are looting the treasury, as evidenced most recently with a stimulus in which the lion’s share of the benefits went to millionaires, while the rest of us received $1200, if we were lucky. 

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Also consider how law enforcement and their cheerleaders always expect, nay, demand accountability from Black, Indigenous and people of color, yet never offer any themselves, the problem is always a few bad actors, never the institution. These voices love to remind us that not all cops are bad, and yet for every officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on George Floyd’s neck until the life was extinguished from his body, there are three officers watching, ignoring Floyd’s cries for mercy.

Law enforcement are in the streets at this moment armed with military grade weapons, yet our doctors and nurses have to resort to garbage bags as replacers for Personal Protective Equipment. Violence is the language of the oppressor. Violence is the only language the oppressor understands. This language has been used to communicate with us for more than 400 years—the knee on our collective neck, all while we are pacified with scriptures that preach “peace.” 

 We have been convinced it’s feasible and even righteous to counter this oppression peacefully. We have been taught to accept suffering on this earth as if suffering were a virtue. What we are witnessing now is the reality that there is a limit to how much oppression a people can take. There’s a limit to how many videos of unarmed men dying we can watch. And when that limit is reached, that’s when some will resort to speaking the oppressor’s language. 

The privileged have no right to tell the oppressed how to protest, cannot rightfully tell the descendants of enslaved people, whose exploitation gave rise to American capitalism, what can and cannot be destroyed. 

The privileged have a responsibility to investigate, and redistribute, the advantages they have benefitted from, which have come at the expense of someone else’s suffering. Taken in this light, what is happening now is an opportunity. There is a better way forward. For all of us. For our non-Black readers, be an accomplice. Rise for justice. It’s the right thing to do. 

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