It took 66 days to get from the first shelter-in-place order to the first riot. Alongside the absolute outrage over the murder of George Floyd, we might also register some small sense of hope that it remains possible for people to struggle against the arrangement of the world that is for them always a source of violence, to struggle for the very possibility of their flourishing, to struggle together and in the streets. Certainly, during the interval, the possibility that this potential had been eclipsed gnawed at everyone I know. It has not.
Events are still unfolding and I don’t want to draw easy conclusions. There should be real humility in the knowledge that all theory comes from struggle, it doesn’t precede much less pretend to direct it. It feels important, for those of us who can’t be out there, to be attentive to what is intolerably familiar: the police murder of a black person, the lie that the police were acting in self-defense, the revelation that this crudest of lies covers over a lynching. The familiarity of this does not in any way diminish its intensity. The extrajudicial killing of black people is central to the ordering of United States society, central not just to how power maintains itself but how it knows itself. And the legitimacy and necessity of black rage is in part an attempt to survive this order, to make an order against it. For all the desperate bleats from news sources and politicians regarding chaos in the streets, there is disorder only in the most literal sense: an attempt to unmake the order founded on racialized violence.