Bowens: From Detroit to Minneapolis, the same message: Never mind coronavirus. The system is killing us.

June 01, 2020, 11:52 PM by  Greg Bowens

Greg Bowens: "We will pay a price as Covid-19 resurges."

Every riot is not a rebellion. Every rebellion is not a riot. In the age of coronavirus, we better understand the difference.

Across the country now, people are saying one simple thing: Never mind the virus. The system is killing us.

George Floyd, the black man in Minneapolis killed by police May 25, said as much when former officer Derek Chauvin was crushing the life out of him as Floyd lay face down in full view of passersby shouting at them to stop.

For nearly nine minutes, we watched Chauvin and his fellow officers kill a man while staring at the cameras and gathering crowd.

Never mind the coronavirus. The system is killing us.

Detroit protesters Sunday night at police headquarters. (Photo: Michael Lucido)

In response, outraged citizens are saying as much during protests in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Lansing and cities across the country. Black, white and Latinos of all ages are wearing protective masks and bandanas, but social distancing is difficult in a protest.

Never mind the coronavirus. The system is killing us.

Here at home, where the ‘67 Detroit riots were a rebellion, politicians tried to get ahead of the fury. Mayor Mike Duggan said racism is real and called for recruiting more black cops. Police Chief James Craig said Chauvin should be charged with murder. City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield denounced the situation.

More than 1,000 people gathered downtown anyway Friday. People gathered Saturday and Sunday too – masks and rage at hand. As in other cities, peaceful marches during the day turned ugly as imported provocateurs reportedly damaged property and clashed with police. More than 100 were arrested. A nighttime curfew remains in effect.

By Monday, both the Governor and Lt. Governor appeared in a video acknowledging the pain Michiganders feel as protests spread from Grosse Pointe to Grand Rapids.

Never mind the coronavirus. The system is killing us.

Even the White House was put on lockdown — not due to Covid-19, but from protesters knocking down barriers. One scaled the fence. The president moved to a bunker.

Never mind the coronavirus. The system is killing us.

The white guys carrying semi-automatic rifles into the Capitol in Lansing are saying it. So are the brothers who followed with their own open-carry demonstration later. The Owosso barber who refuses to close is saying it while cutting hair for a roomful of customers – masks, social distancing and stay-at-home orders be damned.

The newly homeless people of Midland are saying it as they recover from floodwaters loosed by a poorly regulated, privately owned dam that burst into their living rooms and drowned their possessions.

Acts large and small, from the murderous to the mundane, are burning away the fabric of American society. The pandemic’s stay-at-home effect has had us all living in the moment, doomed to watching the sins of our past rise again in a collective present with all the ugliness and unfairness built into the American dream exposed.

We will pay a price as Covid-19 resurges in round two, but right now it’s all about never mind the coronavirus, the system is killing us!

And while many of us still sit safely cocooned in our homes, parts of the world outside seem to be descending into chaos. Time to recognize that even from the relative safety of our house, there is no us versus them. There is only us.

And it’s time we all do more than say never mind the coronavirus, the system is killing us.

For while every riot is not a rebellion, our own history teaches us a rebellion is an act of righteousness against a system that fails to protect and provide for people it serves. That’s the difference. In the age of the coronavirus, we better understand this and work to do more to change things for the better -- now.

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