In the end, a destination we haven’t reached and I’m not sure we ever will, history will remember this year, and these protests, in the same ways that history remembers the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.
In the end, as Martin Luther King, Jr said, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice”. We are bending it towards justice because justice too long denied is intolerable, erodes the human spirit, spits in the face of ancestors, and willfully sows division and hatred for maintenance of power.
As we write this, the Civil War Soldiers Memorial at the State Capitol in Denver has been pulled down. Claims of mob rule and anarchy spread among right-wing and neoliberal circles, demanding history be remembered: “How could anyone claiming aboriginal ancestry cheer the erasure of that story from a monument to soldiers who died fighting for the Union (and against slavery)?” one man hurriedly typed on Facebook.
Do you mean that same Union that profited off slavery and fought, in fact, to preserve the Union – not to end slavery? Do you mean a unit of soldiers that, while fighting for the Union, committed one of history’s most aggrieved acts of genocide, the Sand Creek Massacre? A state and an empire that applauds its most horrific members while stomping the breath out of lives screaming for justice is not one that should go unchallenged. For too long – too fu*king long – the citizenry has been pacified, contented, and lethargic with regard to the exercise of rights. That season appears to have passed.
The murder of Native and African Americans is as American as apple pie, age-old. I have to be clear that what began in 1619 was a new iteration of an older project. The first slavery, the first genocides began in 1493. Natives – which includes Chicanos, Latinos, and all peoples from Alaska and Canada to Argentina and Brazil, and all the islands on our costs – were the first slaves, the first hunted, the first to endure and survive genocide. We cannot ignore that, nor erase it. Be wary of anyone who does.
The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd set off an American powder keg. Rightfully. Public, police executions of Black people have gone on for far too long. Police impunity is the problem. And yes, we know that each of you special snowflakes is a life that matters. Today we affirm that #BlackLivesMatter because, of all our houses, that is the house that is on fire today. More clearly: that is the house that is *still* being burnt down.
We, along with the many thousands who took to the streets this summer, are fighting for a reimagining of the America we live in, because we live in an American that – in 2020 – has barely begun to take down racist, traitorous Confederate flags in our military institutions. It’s an America that has a constitutional ban on slavery, except if you’re in prison (Black and Indigenous bodies are locked up at the highest rates). It’s an America that smirks at Black lives lost at the hands of police, unless it’s caught on tape, shared enough times, and finds its way to a sympathetic jury.
I wrote once that America deserves the unrest it is currently experiencing. It deserves its monuments to racists and murderers be torn down. It deserves its government building overrun with angry people, fighting for a just world. It deserves the vilification of its police and its complicit political class.
The images in these pages were taken in Denver, Erie, Longmont, and Boulder, images of resistance and hope, of survival against militarized police, of love for Black lives in streets that for so long have buried whole communities of color. Our editor, De La Vaca, was shot three times, including a rubber bullet to the groin while covering the protests. Media and medics were targeted, beyond the targeting of peaceful protesters, leading to a federal restraining order against Denver Police Department.
De La Vaca, Alexander Pringle, Kenneth Wajda, and Chelsea Campbell stood in the violence of the streets, in the love of the streets, to capture and share these “Faces of Summer” with you today.