I don’t really know how to write this post. The conversation about Black Lives Matter (hint: they do), about police violence against Black civilians, and about endemic racism in this country is such an important one, and we all have a duty to fight racism in every way we can. But it’s also not my place, as a white man, to center myself in that conversation. Like everyone else, I’m trying to process what’s going on and find the best ways I can help in the fight for change, but my voice is far from the most important one right now. This post is a diary entry of sorts, containing my personal reflections on the ongoing protests against police brutality, but at the end, I’ll include a selection of resources for anti-racism and ways to get involved.
Please, help in any way you can. This is important.
The world is very much on fire right now, and in particular, anti-Black racism is at the center of America’s national attention, as the murder of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests that were met with unspeakable violence by police forces across the country. It’s a frightening, uncertain time. It also feels like a moment where genuine change might be possible, because this country is being forced to confront the institutional racism, discrimination, and violence that so many (white) people try to pretend doesn’t exist.
During this time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Tower. More than any other card in the Tarot deck, the Tower expresses the energy of this moment. The Tower is the card that screams, burn it all down. The Tower tells us that when something is built on a bad foundation, the whole structure needs to be torn down and started anew. With the institutions and attitudes that hold up anti-Black racism in the US today, we’re seeing calls not just for reform, but to scrap the whole system and start anew. Abolish prisons, abolish or defund the police, and so on.
The Tower is a card of revolution. It accepts no compromise, it does nothing halfway. It sees that something is wrong, that something cannot be allowed to continue—and it destroys every last piece of the old order so that a new one (and hopefully a better one) can be erected in its place. It’s the storming of the Bastille, the Bolshevik Revolution, the revolt of Haitian slaves against the colonial slavers.
Here’s the thing about the Tower: It’s never a first resort. When people are suffering, when they’re oppressed, they don’t start with revolution. Revolution is bloody, and violent, and comes at a tremendous cost. Innocent people die. And sometimes, rebellion gets quashed, and all that violence and death serves for nothing in the end. Revolution is the thing that people come to when they have no other choice, when they’ve tried to reform the system that oppresses them, when they’ve protested and pleaded and sought out change in every other avenue—but been denied. Revolution comes when the injustice is too great to bear, so great that the cost of an uprising doesn’t matter anymore, and when people feel like it is their only hope for change. In the famous words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a riot is the language of the unheard.
We have reached such a point in American history. The Black Lives Matter movement has been active since the Ferguson protests in 2014, and police violence against Black citizens (and the fight against that violence) goes back much, much further than that. People have protested. People have contacted their representatives. People have demanded reform and accountability. And nothing has been done. We’re reaching a breaking point where something has to change, and it increasingly seems like riots (for lack of a less value-laden word) are the only form of collective action that elicits any sort of response. We have entered a time of the Tower.
The Tower is sometimes necessary, and it really seems like now is one of those times, but it’s never something to be celebrated. As I’ve discussed before, there’s an inherent tragic element to this card: It’s needed in order to clear away the things that are broken and corrupt, but it destroys absolutely everything, good as well as bad. A lot of good people, innocent people, will die as a result of the recent escalation in police violence. A lot of harm will be done. Of course, innocent people are already dying, and harm is already being done; the reason things have come to this is that the status quo involved a constant, callous disregard for the value of Black life. Under circumstances where Black people are gunned down in the streets, the human cost of revolt seems negligible next to the cost of silence and complicity—especially if there is any hope at all that revolt can bring about change.
Nonetheless, I mourn that cost. I mourn all the blood that has been shed, and I mourn the fact that more blood will be shed—more protestors will die or suffer non-lethal police brutality—before justice can be achieved. These protests are necessary, and good, and I so desperately hope that they can bring us closer to a just society. But I wish that the racism in America hadn’t been so deeply rooted, and I wish that change through other avenues had been possible. I wish that politicians had been responsive, that police had been held accountable, and that the ideology of white supremacy wasn’t so pervasive and pernicious. I wish we had been able to fix what’s wrong with this country without coming to the Tower, because the cost of change through the Tower is so very high, and so many more Black Americans will die before this is over.
But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. And even my ability to wish for that—to pine for reform rather than revolution—is an indication of the level of privilege I have because of the color of my skin. Black Americans don’t have the luxury of wishing for non-violent change, because the status quo in this country is and has always been violently against them. The only real way to wish for racism to be fixed without violence is to wish that racism had never existed in the first place, because the whole history of this country is inextricably intertwined with the death and suffering of Black people. The reason we’re here, the reason we’ve come to the Tower, is that anti-Black racism is at America’s foundation. What the Tower teaches us is that when you have injustice at the bedrock level like that, the only way to get rid of it is to tear down the whole structure built upon it.
And so it seems that is what must be done.
Black lives matter. I stand with everyone protesting against racism in America, in all the ways that manifests. I support the protestors in any way they choose to protest, and I pray that this moment really can be a turning point for America.
A final note: I try to be aware of my privilege, to listen to BIPOC voices, and to educate myself about race, but sometimes I fail and end up doing more harm than good by speaking from a place of ignorance. If I have done so here, and you’re comfortable letting me know, please do so. I am always learning.
Some resources on anti-racism, Blackness, and ways that you can help in the current moment:
How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
This incredible video of James Baldwin.
Call your elected representatives to demand legislative action, including the elimination of qualified immunity for police officers (which prevents the police from being sued for excessive use of force). I also recommend contacting your municipal government, your governor’s office, and your state legislature—local officials will have more influence over issues like police defunding. Defund12 has resources for contacting your city council members.
Campaign Zero is a platform working to end police violence, with specific policy proposals.
And finally, please, join the protests if you can.