During his remarks Monday at the Police Athletic League, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for a moratorium on protests demanding justice for the scores of black people who have fallen victim to police brutality while the city mourns the deaths of two police officers—Wenjian Liu, 28, and Rafael Ramos, 40—killed in Brooklyn on Saturday.
“I think it’s important that regardless of people’s viewpoints that everyone step back,” de Blasio said. “I think it’s a time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in all due time.
“Let's comfort these families, let's see them through these funerals,” he continued. “Then debate can begin again.”
Not surprisingly, there has been scarce mention of the fact that the alleged killer, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, shot his girlfriend, Shaneka Nicole Thompson, and left her for dead in her home in Baltimore prior to traveling to New York. The deaths of two police officers—-one Asian and the other Hispanic—-has vastly overshadowed a black woman fighting for her life.
It’s the audacity of blue privilege.
De Blasio, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have spent the last several months throwing us bones of political concern, but what this week has made clear is that the senseless death of a police officer “tears at the fabric of society” in a way that the modern-day lynchings of unarmed black people do not.
We are expected to stop and mourn the “execution” of Ramos and Liu while simultaneously waiting to hear if a Cleveland grand jury will even indict police officers in the “shooting death” of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was gunned down within 1.5 seconds of officers’ arrival at the playground where he was playing. We are being asked to set aside the fact that John Crawford III was killed by police inside a Wal-Mart and his family was told that it was “justifiable.”
We are expected to be silent in the face of continued injustice; we are expected to accept a racist logic that claims our “unrest” is harming the nation while showing deference to a law-enforcement community that has yet to reckon with its systemic role in victimizing black and brown people.
And we are expected to do that emotional labor while being treated as enemy combatants on urban battlefields around the country.
New York City protesters have been met with NYPD supporters wearing “I Can Breathe” shirts, mocking the last words of 43-year-old Eric Garner as Officer Daniel Pantaleo snatched the breath from his body. Where is the moratorium on that?
Where is the moratorium on “not all cops are bad” rhetoric in the relentless onslaught of black deaths—Michael Brown and Garner, Brandon Tate-Brown and Aura Rosser, Tanesha Anderson and Ezell Ford—and so many more at the hands of police officers?
Positioning calls to protect the sanctity of black life—our fight to be viewed as human beings worthy of liberty and justice—as disrespectful to grieving families and damaging to race relations in this country fits the very definition of racism.
Our pain cannot be suspended. It cannot be suppressed so that this nation can have a reprieve from our justifiable rage. The insidious, psychological trauma that weighs on our communities—that constant sense of wariness and fear, knowing that our skin color is often a target on our backs—cannot be placed on a shelf until a more convenient time. There is no pause button. In the iconic words of Gil Scott-Heron, “The revolution will not be right back after a message about a white tornado, white lightning or white people … the revolution will be live.”
Contrary to what Mayor de Blasio says, for millions of black Americans, the time is past due. This is not merely “political,” it is personal. And that is not up for debate.
There is a never a wrong time to say that black lives matter.