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What would be an appropriate reaction to the police violence demonstrated against Black people in this country? Is this it? Are the nationwide protests, marches, vigils and demonstrations in proportion to the problem?

As a Black woman living in New York City, I've spent my life watching things unfold and trying to wrap my head around why things happen the way they do. The only comfort I can find in this turmoil right now is in trying to make certain of the uncertainty. The pain of a racist incident forces me to seek out logic and search for an explanation rather than accept the stark reality of victimization and attack. So, I keep trying to understand. I think about not only the news but about the real-life accounts of my relatives and friends who have endured racist attacks and profiling. And when I take into account my own personal experience of racism in this country, I come to an oddly scientific place in my head. A place where I can shield myself from the pain and see things from a more detached perspective, as this country seems to have detached itself from my pain and that of so many others. My thinking brings me to a concept that has always fascinated me: Isaac Newton’s third law of motion. Newton’s third law of motion states that every action will result in an equal and opposing reaction. How can we apply that to our present situation?

America’s oppressive history of racial injustice has built the framework for the pattern of brutal unjust police murders of Black lives that people are now paying attention to in this country and around the world. To my eyes, we are witnessing what could be seen as a moment of grand reckoning, and enactment of this potentially prophetic scientific law. The burning. The protest. It’s time America not only reckons with its past. It’s time America faces its rational consequences.

400 years of Black oppression and suppression in America have now resulted in what might be seen as its natural and scientifically equal and opposite form. S**t has hit the fan. We all see that. But if we look closely at this situation, with a sort of detached scientific honesty, what would a reasonable reaction to these centuries of racial oppression and all this police brutality look like?

Would a reasonable reaction look like the peaceful and graceful protests of Colin Kaepernick? Would it look like the peaceful protests of huge crowds wearing protective masks in a pandemic? Would that be a logical result of the circumstances which led us here? Would that be in proportion to the years and years of oppression and pain which have been inflicted on Black people in this country for so long?

Or, if we apply Newton’s laws of motion to a societal situation, would those scientific principles tell us something different? My guess is that they probably would. The anger and frustration that people are feeling surely wouldn’t allow such peace. The concept of peaceful protest doesn’t balance out the action in this scenario of equal and opposite reactions. Given the scope of the oppression and pain, a massive, resounding, tectonic, shape-shifting, physical reaction is the only reaction in proportion.

If I had to think of something in our recent past that might approach an equivalent reaction to the harm inflicted on Black people for the past 400-plus years, it would have to be the devastating effects of the bombing of Hiroshima. An atomic bomb dropped by president Truman on August 6, 1945, killed 80,000 people instantly. To me, an atomic impact seems a lot closer to what might be an equal and opposite reaction.

In the past few months, with the uprisings in response to the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, we are in unfamiliar territory. Consider the ways that corporations and disingenuous, self-serving people are eagerly hijacking the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement, and one might assume that the current strong reactions we are witnessing are no more than a passing fad. But it is my belief that they are not. They are the beginning of something much bigger and long-lasting. George Floyd’s murder might have been what dropped the bomb and caused mass destruction, but let’s not forget that after the atomic bomb hit the city of Hiroshima, there were the lasting effects that caused tens of thousands more to die from radiation poisoning.

Today, the radiating effects of the initial explosion are what we are counting on for lasting change. What we are fighting for is to see Newton’s law applied to society as a whole, and to see actual catastrophic, monumental change in political law and justice. To enact Newton’s law in our land. This transformation will be the most challenging of all. From one scientific law, we can create societal laws that will ensure America’s actual physical transformation toward a place of protection and justice. To see a truly equal and opposite reaction, the country must be transformed to represent the full scope and spectrum of its formerly marginalized demographic.

More Black and brown representation must be achieved in all aspects of social, economic, and political power. Racist corporate heads who are currently hoarding power must be removed and replaced. Police forces must be entirely dismantled. And the nation must be rebuilt on a new framework. This would be the atomic reaction necessary, a powerful shaft of light to bring about true glory in an aftermath of great destruction. In this detached rational thinking I find a sense of clarity, and this opposing and oppositional reaction is mine to endure.


Aisha Redux was raised in New York City by parents who emigrated from West Africa. She now lives in the South Bronx. Her book 'Stupid Black Girl: Essays from an American African' was published in June.