Teen Vogue, May 28, 2020
In this op-ed, Zyahna Bryant — a Charlottesville-based activist, organizer, and social impact strategist — offers insight into how people can take anti-racist action.
In the wake of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, and now George Floyd, it is imperative that we have a conversation about where we, as a society, go from here. It seems there is an overwhelming expectation that Black activists and organizers will say something profound about Black death, but what I have to offer is not some profound truth but a simple request: Take action.
I feel this way because, for years, I’ve found myself constantly reflecting on how long we’ve been having these conversations about police brutality. I look at pictures from protests that I had in a camera roll from 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2018. For so long people have tried to paint these killings of unarmed Black people as isolated incidents, despite the movement that has worked to clearly establish the links between them.
What I’ve also seen is the tendency to lean into and perpetuate the narrative that there are “good apples” and “bad apples” when it comes to cops. However, there is also an inability to point out and directly cite the fact that the system of U.S. policing as we now know it is rooted and deeply entangled in the need to control and surveil Black people. This system is a pillar of white supremacy. Its modern manifestation dates back to chattel slavery, post-Civil War Reconstruction, and can be specifically found in Black codes and vagrancy laws that were prominent in the South.