National Guard soldiers in Downtown Los Angeles, May 2020. Photography by Samuel Braslow

The human heart is shoddy at sustaining outrage. In any ongoing crisis — a pandemic, a police crackdown, several centuries of brutal racial segregation or all of the above- people have a funny way of getting used to it. Normalising obscenity is a human instinct, unless we are in mortal peril. Confronting injustice is uncomfortable. It’s painful. It’s embarrassing.

To avoid discomfort and shame and pain, we tell ourselves that everything’s fine. We tell ourselves that it was all very dramatic for a bit there, but it’ll be back to normal soon. We pretend that the burning earth is stable beneath us. We pretend so hard that we start to mistake the burning earth for the moral high ground.

This week, as protests against police violence raged across America and Europe, white people who have spent months in anxious quarantine, desperate for some way to return to our familiar, everyday lives, have been confronted with the uncomfortable reality that for black and brown people, “normal” means ritual, degrading, state-sanctioned violence. It means being forced back to work in the middle of a pandemic. It means mortal peril.

Right now, nothing is going back to normal. It has been two weeks since protests against erupted around the United States, and then around the world, in response to the murder of George Floyd. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve reported on protest movements for a decade.

On Friday, the 30th of May, I watched a few hundred people, most but not all of them young, most but not all of them Black, sitting in Pacific Palisades park, in Los Angeles, on the grass, in the sun, holding hand-drawn signs with such self-evident statements as ‘we are not thugs’ and ‘black lives matter.’

Almost everyone was wearing a face mask, because there’s still a pandemic out there. People shared jokes and hand sanitizer. In the middle of a wave of civil unrest, in the teeth of a democratic breakdown, on the brink of economic disaster, at the epicentre of a global pandemic that has already killed 107,000 Americans, a local Sikh community group was handing out bottles of water and neat little trays of pasta salad. Passing drivers hammered their horns and threw fist salutes out of their windows. It was quiet enough that my photographer friend and I got out of the car, even though we had promised our quarantine household that we wouldn’t.

And then an armoured police van covered in tooled up stormtroopers ploughed down the street, and all hell broke loose.

The officers dangled off the truck in a carapace of flashy-looking tactical gear I’d only ever seen before on people LARPing robocop, except these guns weren’t cardboard. The crowd began to get to its feet in a panic. I thought of the London Riots, nine years ago. I thought of a demonstration I got stuck in in central Cairo in 2013, of the sudden hiss of a tear gas canisters and the people scattering like drops of water on a hot stove.

These people scattered faster. My friend and I were already pelting back to the car when we saw something- a stick or a plastic bottle- go spinning through the air towards the CBS building. That gave the beetle boys all the excuse they needed. A bellowed signal, and two lines of police with guns swarmed out from behind the CBS gates, advancing on the crosswalk with their guns raised.

People were protesting because two weeks ago in Minneapolis, a police officer choked a man to death. The man’s name was George Floyd. The murderer’s name is Derek Chauvin. In the nine days since George Floyd was murdered and his killer charged, the police have rioted in almost every city in America. Organized gangs of uniformed thugs beat up civilians, teargassed peaceful protesters and fired indiscriminately into crowds of women, children and young people who dared to demand an end to police brutality (self-awareness, like irony, being unAmerican). They shot a pregnant woman in the stomach. They blinded a journalist, Linda Tirado, in one eye. They killed a man in Louisville for standing on the street. In response to being called out, the police did what angry white men tend to do when you call them out: they double down, lashing out at anyone who dares make them face their own shame. There are several Twitter threads cataloguing the violent episodes. Currently, there are more than 425 individual listings.

Chauvin killed Floyd slowly and deliberately, kneeling on his neck for eight minutes and forty three seconds as he gasped for his mother on the ground. Three other cops stood by as bystanders begged for mercy. Chauvin is a state-sanctioned serial killer who has murdered Black and brown men before and been exonerated by a judicial system in which police executions of people of colour are functionally legal.

As I sit down to write this, in Los Angeles, the citywide curfew begins in an hour. The helicopters have been howling all night, and heavily-armed men all roided-out on the ‘warrior mentality’ pushed by modern police training are rolling through the cities to enforce a racist agenda. These are not the good guys. And in a culture hypnotized by tales of white American male heroism, is very dangerous to tell a white man that he is not the good guy. George Floyd’s body was not yet cold when absolute strangers across the planet began to insist that as he was a suspected criminal he deserved to die, horrifically, in public, without any recourse to what white people understand as justice. Normality in America and around the Global North depends on ritual self-exoneration, on routine denial of white violence, on projection of that violence onto the bodies of black and brown victims: this is what normalizes a situation where whites can watch minorities being murdered and maimed and imprisoned and still believe that it is Black and brown citizens, not whites, who are violent and dangerous.

It is deeply uncomfortable to acknowledge white violence and white complicity. The longer white people stay silent, the more uncomfortable it gets. Right now, white people everywhere have a choice between comfort and courage.

***

I’m writing this as a white foreigner. It’s important to be explicit about that for a lot of reasons, not least because white writers have a way of assuming our point of view is both universal and objective. It is no such thing. To be white in America is a specific and subjective experience. It includes, for example, the privilege to remain shocked when armed police gun down reporters doing their jobs and drive armoured cars into crowds of young people who have committed the capital crime of challenging state authority in America.

America is not the only nation built on a logic of abuse, exploitation, white supremacy and white complicity. But it is a nation that has anointed itself with a special destiny, a nation convinced it is the moral protagonist of the human story. Deliberate denial of the centuries of black suffering is essential to the story America tells about itself, a story in which it cannot be anything but the hero, and every action of the American state — whether it is pursuing wars of conquest abroad or terrorising and imprisoning black and brown citizens at home — is, by definition, just, and right, and comfortable. American exceptionalism, as Nesrine Malik points out at The Guardian, was in fact designed to resolve this moral contradiction — to justify the soaring sentiment of self-liberation that built the American revolution while allowing those same white revolutionaries to continue to profit from slavery.

Being white in North America is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. It’s a sordid game of trying to shove the square peg of cultural faith in the moral exceptionalism of the American state into the round hole of reality that that state was founded on stolen indigenous land and built with stolen stolen black labour, that America is not wealthy because it is uniquely deserving but because it profited from generations of kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of black and brown people- and continues to do so. The normalisation or denial of racial injustice is itself an act of violence. By denying the lived experience of racist violence, by standing aside in learned helplessness while it continues, whites demonstrate our commitment, however unwitting, to a status quo where the lives of people of colour, and of black people in particular, are assumed to matter far less than white lives.

For white people in the Global North, acknowledging the reality of racism means acknowledging our own guilt and complicity. It is a body-blow to our cherished sense of self, a disturbance in what we have come to see as normal and comfortable. The day after the first mass arrests in Los Angeles, my friend and I drove down Melrose, where ritzy shops had been tagged with the names Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, sometimes in the shaky, ugly lettering that people use when they’re spraypainting a wall for the very first time. When black and brown protesters and their white allies annotate their cities with the names of victims of police violence, a great many white people respond first by decrying the vandalism of property rather than the waste of black bodies. Simply describing the reality of racism is interpreted as an attack, because it disturbs what Robin Di Angelo and many others call ‘white innocence’ — the privilege to self-exonerate from involvement in racist power systems on the basis of ignorance. The privilege to experience our own feelings as facts. The privilege to insist that if we didn’t mean any harm, harm did not happen. The privilege to believe that the reason we didn’t hear the pain and fury of millions of other human beings was that nobody was angry or in pain, and not because those human beings have been brutalised into silence and terrorized into swallowing their trauma so that we can feel comfortable.

In a white supremacist system, white wilful ignorance must be preserved at all costs — even when video evidence of police officers beating up black children and murdering black men and boys has circulated in public for years. White ignorance is a blister on the sole of the species. These protests, erupting in a moment where the concept of normality is already upended, adamantly refuse to accommodate white ignorance. That is what makes them powerful.

Refusing to normalise abuse is an act of defiance. For those who are comfortable with the status quo, naming injustice can feel like an attack. When injustice becomes impossible to ignore, when it suddenly becomes clear that things have been terribly wrong for a very long time, people often get angry at whoever dared to call abuse by its name, because they’re the ones making a fuss. White people call for civility, as if enforcing civility between victims and perpetrators of violence were in any way a neutral position. White people complain that we’ve not been able to eat in restaurants for months, that the very first Friday night after lockdown eased up, we weren’t able to go out to our favourite little neighborhood bistro because these ‘lowlifes and scum’, to quote the Great Cheeto, provoked a curfew with their preposterous demand to be treated with basic human dignity. Not for the first time in America, the outrage is not about who goes hungry - it’s about who gets to eat dinner undisturbed.

Black anger, however softly spoken, is always read as illegitimate. The rage of white, straight men is the only anger that is ever treated as legitimate, and for years the rest of us have been told that we must treat it with respect, make concessions to its incoherent demands. The rest of us grow up learning that it is dangerous to antagonize powerful men, being taught by people who love us not to provoke white rage, because in a white supremacist country, angry white people can do what they want. In Hollywood, after dark, we drove past a drunk-looking gaggle of white people with baseball bats marching up and down in front of the shuttered Rite Aid. The police left them alone, just like they left the mobs of white people with weapons roaming the streets in Indiana and Washington State, saving their teargas and rubber bullets for those demanding an end to white supremacy. Angry white racists looking to start fights are not a threat to the American civil society. They are American civil society. They are American normal.

I am not saying this to tell people of color anything they don’t already know. I’m saying this for the benefit of any white people still wrestling with their own discomfort at watching Urban Outfitters burn on CNN. Consider, for a moment, the utter absurdity of asking people to protest ‘peacefully’ when simply taking a knee or raising your hands or even mentioning the indisputable fact of racism in a way that might make white people slightly uncomfortable is already taken as a provocation to swift and savage backlash. Consider the jaw-dropping hypocrisy of describing children laying down in the street as violent scum while allowing police to shoot those children with utter impunity. Consider what it is to live in a country that takes months to respond to a pandemic that overwhelmingly kills Black, brown, and poor people and then, at the first sign of civil disobedience from those same people, moves swiftly to place the nation under military occupation.

Nine years ago, I was living in London when protests erupted all over the city. It started in Tottenham, in response to the police killing of 28-year-old Mark Duggan. The next night, boroughs were burning all over the city. The night after that, it spread to Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol — everywhere young people were angry and poor and sick to death of watching the future rotting around them while cops drunk on apocalyptic machismo hassled them on the way to work. After three days, most of the country was convinced that nothing would ever go back to normal. We’d already had years of pointless state-imposed austerity. Youth centres were closing, welfare was being cut, the cost of higher education had tripled. Schools and hospitals and communities were falling apart, people were getting poorer, faster, and communities were falling apart, and nobody had enough work, and now the high streets were on fire and a substantial slice of the nation just wanted the looting and the burning to stop.

I hunkered in my boyfriend’s house in Holloway, watching Twitter throb and flicker with frantic updates. Somewhere in the haze of information, someone linked me to John Berger’s essay on the purpose of mass demonstrations. I reread it this week. Berger reminds us that the purpose of a riot, or of a demonstration that becomes a riot, is not to appeal to the conscience of authority, but demonstrate its lack of conscience. “The demonstrators present themselves as a target to the so-called forces of law and order. Yet the larger the target they present, the stronger they feel….Either authority must abdicate and allow the crowd to do as it wishes…. Or else authority must constrain and disperse the crowd with violence: in which case the undemocratic character of such authority is publicly displayed.”

This week in LA, the police made their choice. They marched forward with guns up and thick bunches of plastic handcuffs on their belts. I’d seen those wads of handcuffs before in London, in New York and in Berlin, and they mean that everyone’s going to jail, including those of us for whom jail might mean deportation. I have been reporting on protests for long enough to know that the mere fact of being press is no protection from arrest. They didn’t give any warnings. They didn’t give any instructions. They fired into the crowd, surrounding our car, and I yelled at my friend to stop taking pictures, close the damn door and drive.

That’s when the screaming started. Some protesters raised their hands; some of them dropped to their knees. The police started shooting anyway. Rubber bullets, like the Minneapolis police used to blinded my friend Linda Tirado on Friday night. Rubber bullets, which have a 3% fatality rate. Kids in face masks tried their best to stay six feet apart while fleeing to a gas station forecourt on the corner where our car was parked. They had no weapons. They had signs that said ‘white silence is violence.’ They had signs that said ‘I can’t breathe.’ The LAPD did not hesitate to shoot. They kept coming.

I threw myself down in the back seat, because rubber bullets break windscreens as well as bones. The second wave of officers started marching forward, mooing at us to move, even though there was nowhere to go unless we wanted to drive right through a scattering crowd of scared kids who had dared to come out to say that police should not be able to execute black youth with impunity. I saw the cops’ belts bristling with plastic handcuffs, enough to mass-arrest a whole crowd, and the protesters ran in all directions, and that’s when I knew we had to leave, too.

It was at this point, screeching away from the police, that I realised that I, too, can do some really stupid things to feel normal. I’ve spent almost my entire adult life running off into the rubble to report when things fall apart and not getting in too much trouble because I’m white and have a talent for Karening my way out of police kettles. If I get arrested on my current visa, I’ll get deported and can never come back. Everything in the city was going fucking nuts and I wanted to do something that made me feel normal and useful and vaguely in control. If I could turn this nightmare into a work assignment, I could make sense of it. I went out to report for the same reason that this morning, a block away from a still-smoking street of swanky stores annotated with anti-racist graffiti, twenty people were queing up to pay five dollars for an oat latte they could have made almost as well at home. Because it felt normal. And you want to pretend things are normal. Because if things feel normal, then maybe things will be okay.

Normality. Comfort. Control. For a great many millions of Americans, for a great many generations, normal has been surveillance, deprivation, the slow violence of inequality and the rapid brutality of state killers patrolling the street. And yet, somehow, it is white men — white men and the white women spineless enough to trade their integrity for the sketchy pseudo- protection of white men — who have spent the past decade insisting that they are the ones who feel like they’re being ‘policed’, feeling like they are being ‘lynched’. These are the terms they reach for when trying to describe their fear of being held accountable for five fucking minutes. Lynched is not a metaphor. Policed is not a feeling. Persecution is not a feeling. It is a fact, and its fallout can be counted in corpses. Accountability is not persecution. It’s not even harmful, although everyone who is not a white man has learned in their bones that to hold a white man accountable is an act of violence. To borrow a phrase, white people are afraid that Black people will ‘cancel’ them; Black people are afraid that white people will kill them.

***

By the fourth night of curfew and chaos in Los Angeles, the city had already arrested 2,500 people just for being outside. The purpose of a curfew is not to keep the streets safe but to make protest a crime. A curfew gives law enforcement carte Blanche to arrest anyone protesting, no matter how peacefully, which is why for the last few days in American cities curfews have been imposed with less than an hour’s warning. Essential workers are exempt, but that doesn’t mean that the many essential workers who are Black and brown are safe from the indiscriminate gangs of heavily armed white boys in uniform.

Journalists are also, technically, allowed out after curfew, but that hasn’t stopped officers assaulting, tear-gassing and shooting at members of the press. On that fourth night, my friend and I drove through Hollywood after dark, promising the members of our quarantine group that this time, no matter what happened, we would not get out of the car.

Sunset boulevard, the most anxiously iconic street in America, was under effective military occupation when we got there. Every storefront was boarded up and the striplights that usually blaze all night were darkened — but the whole place was lit up with hectic, flashing blue-and white. The sirens screamed and the helicopters roared overhead. It felt like the first day of a war- and in fact, three hours earlier, the alleged President had slunk out of his bunker to declare war on the ‘lowlifes and losers’, posing for photographs waving a bible with the smirking of someone who has never read it.

To get those photos, Washington DC police tear-gassed people outside a church. America is a nation that reads its bible for the burning and the bombast, a nation where hyperbole is impossible because America is constantly mean-drunk on its own hype. It is nation that deals self-aggrandising pseudo-heroism, a nation that that it has convinced itself it is not too big to fail, that, per Mango Mussolini, ‘our country always wins’.

A woman was screaming in the side streets as we drove through Hollywood in the dark. We spotted her on a bench, with all her belongings around her in bags. We couldn’t hear what she was screaming about. She clearly had mental health difficulties and nowhere safe to sleep. The police ignored her as they drove by to place the heart of Hollywood under the same effective military occupation that black and brown communities have been living under for years — because policing is the only thing that the nation sees fit to fund. The American state is the police force and the prison system.

America deals with its poor, restless and hungry by shooting them down or locking them up in sweltering cages where they are forced to work. It is very hard to persuade the people back home that this is actually happening, and it is harder to persuade Americans that even in Britain, where I’m from, which has nothing to boast about when it comes to state violence against immigrants and minorities, this is not not normal.

When I first read that the city of Los Angeles spends 53% of its entire budget on policing, I thought someone had left out a decimal point. How can a city with thousands of homeless people, millions of families living below the poverty line and rudimentary healthcare and education services come up with more than a billion dollars to kit out these toy soldiers with guns and tanks? More than a billion dollars. Every year!

Hollywood is, among other things, the myth factory for American Exceptionalism, the propaganda machine pumping out the message that white Americans are the protagonists of the hero’s journey of humanity, the people whose lives matter. With the lights out and the national guard in the street and the woman on the bench screaming at the sky, it looked like any other failed state. Driving through the side-streets with my friend, dodging roadblocks, I saw more clearly the economic choice this country has made in the past half-century of marrying wall-chewing market fundamentalism with white supremacy. America pays for police and prisons instead of paying for things other developed countries consider standard. Instead of a public mental health system, instead of housing policies that keep people off the streets, they have prisons. Instead of dealing with in-work poverty or centuries of racist injustice they have police with guns to meet any objection with deadly force.

I come from a racist country. I come from a country, in fact that profited from — I believe the technical term is centuries of slave-trading and imperial slaughter that we’ve not even begun to come to terms with. But what I saw this week in America shocked me. It shocked me because I am white and foreign and middle class, which means I have benefited my entire life from an architecture of chosen ignorance that allows me the luxury to remain shocked when systemic racism shows its true face.

It shocked me because, like most people, I have spent many, many hours of my life watching American media and consuming American culture that phrases overt racist violence as a rare and tragic exception to the norm. This week, the American government is preparing to send millions of low-paid service workers — many of them black, brown and undocumented — back to their jobs in the middle of a pandemic while the white middle class continues to shelter in place. This week, America is demonstrating once again its willingness to declare black, brown and poor people expendable, to sacrifice them to save the economy. The Federal government appears surprised that there was any outcry about this, because the ease with which America orders Black, brown and poor people to die to protect the white and comfortable isn’t part of the story America tells about itself.

***

These protests are about a lot of different things. They are about injustice and poverty and unemployment and the people forced out to work in a plague to protect someone else’s profit, or locked down at home with no income and a terrifying plague outside and and a vulture economy waiting to swoop in and seize everything they have left. These protests are about everything wrong with America — but they are mostly about white supremacy, because white supremacy is the root and centre of American injustice.

To say that black lives matter is a universal American act of resistance. To say that black lives matter is an act of aggression in a nation founded on the economic assumption that they do not, a nation that would rather smother its citizens than face its own original sin.

Anyone who has survived an abusive relationship knows that drawing attention to violence is a sure way of provoking more of it. And when it comes time for American officials to justify the broken bones and the burst eyeballs and the bodies in the street, every smirking pseudo-apology will be a version of ‘look what you made me do.’

That is what is behind the pleas for civility, the condemnations of the violence in the streets, as if violence in the street were in any way atypical in American life.

I understand that quite a lot of people would like things to go back to the way they were right now. It is reasonable, in the middle of a pandemic, in the worst recession in living memory, in a failing police state torn apart by race riots, why you might want to know when things will go back to normal. People are asking this now in the way that children in the backseat ask ‘are we nearly there yet?’ ten seconds after the car has set off, except that in this case the adults up front are deranged petty despots mean-drunk on rich white male rage and the car is headed right over the event horizon of democratic collapse, and no-one knows how to drive. We are upsettingly nearly there. And nothing is going back to normal.

Normal is a feeling, not an objective state of being. And the instinct to normalize abuse gets stronger the more egregious the injustice. Abusers know this. People working in an abusive system and benefiting from the protection of an abusive government will go out of their way not to name injustice. They will perform fantastic logical gymnastics to insist that there’s nothing to be done, because nothing’s going to change, and anyway none of it is their fault. A great many Americans, in particular, are so attached to an heroic ideal of their own state and their place within it that they will deliberately ignore a staggering amount of evidence to the contrary.

This does not make them evil. Most people don’t have the energy or attention to be properly evil. Most people would rather do the only thing that most people have ever needed to do to enable systemic abuse to become tyranny, which is nothing at all. To paraphrase Judith Herman Lewis, the preeminent scholar of political trauma, the practical standard for what constitutes racist violence is set not at the level of Black and brown people’s actual experience of harm but just above the level of brutality acceptable to white people.

The truth that some of us are still straining to look away from is that Trump is not, in fact, all that much of a departure from American Normal. “The US is not, if we are honest, “in crisis”” writes Afua Hirsch at the Guardian. “That suggests something broken, unable to function as planned. What black people are experiencing the world over is a system that finds their bodies expendable, by design.” What is different about Trump is that he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a lying racist scumbag whose entire platform is about getting away with doing whatever he wants because he’s rich and white and mean. Trump is upfront about all of that. This is known as ‘telling it like it is’, and some people, at least at first, found that refreshing, because there are a lot of white people in America who are sick of feeling guilty about things they have every reason to feel guilty about and who would, in all ways, rather not wear a mask.

The George Floyd protests are a moral breaking point for America and the world, because America has established itself as the moral protagonist of the species, and it is now painfully clear that America couldn’t care less if its Black and brown citizens can’t breathe. The rage that is roiling white supremacists into power and making racists run brave behind the uniforms of state around the world is the rage of abusers who would rather kill than be confronted with the consequences of their own complicity. They would rather stand by and watch another human being have the life squeezed out of him over nine excruciating minutes than consider the mere possibility that they might not be the good guys.

America is a failing state collapsing into its own contradictions, a state drunk on its own kool-aid that has convinced itself and the world that it is too big to fail. It is a rogue state ruled by heavily armed men who never heard a story they weren’t the hero of. It is a dangerous place to be, unless you are white and wealthy and well and willing to keep your mouth shut and unsee centuries of injustice. Naming abuse is an act of defiance. If you are Black in America, declaring your own humanity is a declaration of war.

This week, on my facebook feed, in message groups and, I suspect, in the guilty little hearts of a lot of otherwise well-meaning white people out there, there is a dawning discomfort at the prospect of this sort of war. I get it. We’ve all lost a great deal this year, and culture war that shades into actual war is ugly and inconvenient and plays havoc with your brunch plans, but it is vastly preferable to a treacherous peacetime purchased at the cost of black lives. It is also, by the way, preferable to letting that nasty little knot of complicity metastasise in the pit of your stomach until it eventually strangles your heart. Black lives matter more than white guilt, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.

Right now, white guilt is as deafening as the helicopters. It drowns out the sound of sirens on my street and the panicked yammering of next door’s labradoodle who, like me, is not happy about the soldiers on the sidewalk and wants to speak to the manager. Every cheap knicker store and online yoga class I have ever forgotten to unsubscribe to is suddenly up in my inbox self-flagellating over centuries of racial injustice and promising to do better just as soon as it has worked out what better means and why this is suddenly something they have to pay attention to now. The apologies are omnidirectional and impersonal. They usually are whenever someone’s goal is not to find out who they have harmed and fix it to but to get the other person to please calm down. This is not a time for calm.

After the London Riots, it didn’t take long for everything to go back to normal. Eventually, the Prime Minister flew back from his holidays, announced that the riots were ‘pure criminality’, and smacked preposterous sentences on anyone who had stolen so much as a bottle of water from a store. After a week, the looting and burning stopped.

Except that they didn’t. Not really.

Looting and burning are relative. If we’re going to talk about looting, let’s talk about the wealthy conservative lobbyists who are fencing off 500bn cash grab out of Congress while the rest of the nation gets a check for a month’s rent if it’s lucky. Let’s talk about how the past decade has seen a mass transfer of wealth from the global poor to the rich, which almost always means from people of colour to white people. Let’s talk about the trillions that went into bailing out the banks while ordinary people were left to drown in debt. Let’s talk about how generations of black, brown and poor people in America and across the Global North have seen their land, wealth and freedom confiscated while they. Let’s talk about the slaveowners who profited from the sale and exploitation of millions of human lives, and the reparations that have never been paid. That’s where I’d start, If you want to talk about looting. And if you want to talk about arson, about vandalism, the most damaging fires in Los Angeles are not caused by riots; they happen every year, and they are caused by runaway climate change. The most egregious rioters in Los Angeles smashed up a few shops for a few nights this week. The global super-rich have been smashing and burning the entire fucking future for a century, and they would like us all to be quiet and civil about so they can carry on as normal.

This is the moment when America and the world will have to decide what it will normalise and what it will sacrifice to keep things civil, to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

America is not special. It is not too big to fail. It can fall apart like any other wacked-out rogue state that would rather set fire to its own future than face the moral contradictions of history. White people and anyone else unused to being under siege in their own communities will have to accept that there will be no return to the lives we are used to, and nor should there be. That ending violence in the future involves facing the pain of the present and the past, and that is painful, and necessary, because white America has wallowed in its own slimy self-exoneration for way too long.

Based on a true story. Author, journalist, screenwriter, social justice bard.

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