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Protests and riots have now taken place in more US states than they haven't. They were spurred by the death of George Floyd last Monday in Minneapolis, and while an officer in the case has been taken into custody and charges have been laid against him, the protests have continued.
Speaking on CNN on Friday, pundit and commentator Van Jones laid much of the blame for the turmoil at the hands of white Americans. He put some of the blame on civil rights activists.
He was speaking to podcaster W. Kamau Bell about the history and legacy of white supremacy in America, specifically with regard to the protests that have spread across the country faster than the coronavirus did.
"There's another reality here that you're starting to see. You thought maybe the world worked one way because police are nice to you, because these things don't happen to people that you know. But the whole time there was a whole other America.
"And the reason that you see people now, doing the things that they're doing—now we have no idea who set those fires, it could have been provocateurs, it could be anybody. But the reason you see people willing to risk their lives in the middle of a plague and a pandemic and to go out and literally risk their lives to protest is because people are now fed up.
"People are telling me they are tired of hashtags, they're tired of Van Jones saying we can have a bipartisan solution, they're tired of people like me. They're tired of people saying over and over again that we're just one bill away or just one election away from some progress.
"It's not the racist white person, who is in the Ku Klux Klan that we have to worry about. It's the white liberal Hillary Clinton supporter walking her dog in Central Park who would tell you right now, people like that, 'oh I don't see race, race is no big deal to me, I see us all as the same, I give to charities.'
"But the minute she sees a black man who she does not respect, or who she has a slight thought against, she weaponized race like she had been trained by the Aryan nation. A Klansmember could not have been better trained to pick up the phone and tell police 'it's a black man, come and get him.'
"So even the most liberal, well-intentioned white person, has a virus in his or her brain that can be activated at an instant. And so what you're seeing now is a curtain falling away. And those of us who have burdened by this every minute, every second, of our entire lives, are fragile right now. We are fragile right now. We are tired.
"And so I appreciate people who've been reaching out. I've had people reaching to me for two days expressing their empathy and their sympathy. My only prayer: look in the mirror at how you choke off black opportunity.
"How you choke off black dignity. How you behave in ways that make it harder for African Americans to rise in your profession, in your place of work, on your campus, in your house of worship. And start working on that. Because this is the last domino of a whole series of dominos that have been falling for a long time. And black people have been getting gaslit every time we point this out. And people have been telling us 'well maybe it was this and maybe it was that and are you sure it was this and are you sure it was that.'
"You don't get to this outcome. You don't get to the point where police officers can stand around—don't tell me about the one who had his knee in his neck. Sometimes you have psychopaths, and sociopaths with power. But you know when that happens? You call the police. The police were there watching it, and defending it. And now there are still no charges.
"And that is the problem that we have allowed this contempt for black life to build and to build. And James Baldwin said it best. White people in these situations are always innocent. 'Oh my God, I can't believe this, teach me, educate me, help me understand, how did this happen, talk to me, tell me something, tell me what to do.' White people are always innocent and their innocence constitutes their crime.
"It is too late to be innocent. It is too late. We've had too many funerals for white people to still be this innocent and this shocked. I'm not saying that witnessing a lynching shouldn't flatten you. It has flattened all of us. But it has flattened us for years and years and decades and centuries.
"And so now we're all in it together. There's not an easy legal answer. There's not an easy political answer. There is a personal and spiritual accounting that all of us are now called to. How can civil rights people like me get on tv every day and promise a better outcome and fail every day and still have a job. What the heck is wrong with people like me? What the heck is wrong with people like all of us, we got to this place?"