Recent police killings have sparked protests around the world, with people yelling clear demands ranging from #DefundPolice to #JusticeForBreonnaTalor. However, there are always those white people who will favor symbolism over actual political transformation or, at least, the symbolism seems to overshadow systematic changes.
This is what occurred on Monday when top Democrats unveiled a police reform bill wearing kente cloth. People like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who are clearly white, joined their Black Congress members in recognizing George Floyd by announcing the bill and kneeling.
Floyd died after fired officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his kneck for over eight minutes during an arrest while Floyd was yelling, “I can’t breathe.” The kente cloth-clad Democrats kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds to honor Floyd. The demonstration was supposedly a nod to footballer Colin Kaepernick as well, who was blackballed from the NFL after protesting police brutality.
Despite the honoring of Floyd, many people were expressing on Twitter how the kente cloth was too much.
According to Politico, the Democrats’ police reform bill includes things like moving to ban chokeholds, making it easier to sue police officers who unjustly injure or kill citizens, and lowering the federal threshold for when cops can be charged with using excessive force.
Although some of their policies might help families of police violence find justice, their bill is quite different from many localities demanding police departments be defunded altogether. With law enforcement budgets having grown exponentially for years, folks are demanding investment in social programs instead, such as mental health resources and violence interruption programs. Essentially, many groups such as the Black Lives Matter network and the Movement for Black Lives, are demanding sweeping systematic changes for Black people, instead of reforms that have a history of not working.
But of course, folks still love their symbolism either way.
All over the country, even police officers have carried out gestures that aren’t anywhere close to true change. For example, cops — such as the ones in Buffalo, New York — have been caught on camera kneeling out of respect for protesters, but not too long after, that same police force violently attacked an elderly man.
There has even been coverage of white people washing the feet of Black protestors. Although a good rub-down would be nice, this does nothing for leveraging or relinquishing white privilege so that Black people receive the systematic change needed.
It’s not clear if all these white protestors are working for systematic change along with washing feet. But either way, the optics are excessive, despite being slightly hilarious. Check out more white people doing the most below and the Internet’s commentary on the spectacle.