The Zimmerman verdict reminds us that in the United States Black life is given no value by the forces of law, order, and property. While #hoodiesup shows a historical force drawn up in opposition, the direction of the protests is still uncertain. Some demonstrators call for a federal civil rights suit, while others draw attention to the larger structural oppression faced by black and poor people. Some want to stay focused on a single vigilante, while others draw the connection to Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, and Rodney King. Some want to ignore the institution of the police, while the rest of us know that Zimmerman is a wannabe cop, and that every cop is a wannabe Zimmerman.
Leaders urge peace, calm, and obedience. But even if peaceful rallies result in a federal suit against Zimmerman, will that change what brought us into the streets in the first place? Do we mean it when we say, “Never Again”? What would it take to actually stop all this misery?
Every movement that’s ever meant anything has given itself the means to disrupt daily life. If there is a common thread that runs through Civil Rights to Black Power, this is it. The simple question is how to become a force. Moments of disruption teach us new ways to relate to each other and our cities. Most importantly, they teach us that we are powerful. A determined people doesn’t have to rely on wannabe cops or politicians. That’s why the cowards caution us to obey the law over the call in our hearts. They know this—and it terrifies them.
“I’m not shocked, I’m outraged.” The murder of a black teen is not the exception, but the norm; we are coming to fists with normal life in America. Hence, #hoodiesup must disrupt the places that sustain this normal: cities, highways, trains, ports, social media—all the flows that compose the false harmony of America. The sit-ins in Pittsburgh and Florida, the marches blocking streets around the country, the highway takeovers in Oakland, LA, and Houston, all share a wisdom: every place that politics and commerce carry on as if nothing has happened is ripe for disruption. Block everything!