There is no way I can say all that I need to say about what I am about to say in one short blog post…but I am going to give it my best shot.
Our country has a racism problem. This truth is unassailable; it cannot be defended or argued against. This problem existed when our nation started to form over four hundred years ago, and it still exists today.
Soon after traversing the Atlantic ocean in the early 1600s, many of our predecessors took part in a collective massacre of the “savage” natives who called this place home, stealing most of their land. We built our nation in the 1700s on the backs of African slaves, under the mantra of “all men are created equal.” After slavery was abolished in 1865 we legally mandated racial segregation via Jim Crow laws that did not allow Black and white people to eat in the same restaurants, use the same bathrooms, or get paid the same salaries. Post civil rights we redlined neighborhoods to keep Black families from owning property, created new and egregious prison sentencing for minor offenses, and denied countless Black people financial assistance or healthcare all because of the color of their skin.
Now we find ourselves in 2020, and it has become increasingly clear that there are police officers (and police departments) who treat Black people’s lives as less than. Let me rephrase that – they have BEEN treating Black people’s lives as less than for a long time, but now some of these tragedies are getting videotaped for all of us to see.
The most recent of these videos include the death of George Floyd and the paralyzation of Jacob Blake. Not that we should have to, but upon actually watching both videos it is very clear that the police officer(s) actions are inexcusable. No amount of added context can change that, and the police officers in both cases deserve serious consequences.
This should NOT be a polarizing issue, but a unifying one. The very soul of our nation is at stake. But for some reason, the idea of police reform and speaking up for the undervalued lives of Black people has become very divisive.
As a matter of fact, I want to run through a list of a few statements that I have seen or heard recently in the context of racism and police brutality in our country that I do not understand.
- “If you don’t resist arrest, then you won’t get killed!”
For starters, this sentence is void of compassion or empathy and makes it look like we don’t care that someone died or was seriously injured. Are we insinuating that Jacob Blake deserved to be shot seven times in the back in front of his children? Was that police officer so under-trained that he felt his only option was to empty his clip? No, it is clear that different decisions should have been made. This can be true for both parties, but we also have to hold people in the position of power to a much higher rate of accountability. No person deserves the death penalty for resisting arrest. And the even more unfortunate truth is… white people who resist arrest are not receiving the same treatment. The double standard here needs to be acknowledged and addressed.
2. “Defunding the police is a terrible idea.”
There is a big difference between “defunding” the police and “abolishing” the police, but sometimes even the phrase “defunding” can make us feel uncomfortable. What if we shift the conversation to something we should all be able to agree on – police REFORM. This reform might look like an increase in training for our officers or mandatory body cams, so they are better prepared for situations they may encounter on the job. This reform might look like reallocation of funds toward other community services (i.e. schools, recreation centers, hospitals, mental health clinics, etc) in hopes to increase the health of our cities and neighborhoods. Whatever it looks like, let’s try and shift the conversation toward “police reform,” because I think that is an idea that we can all get behind.
3. “Why don’t these Black athletes/celebrities that are kneeling and/or speaking up about systemic racism start speaking up about all the Black on Black violence that is happening in our cities?”
Great question – and I think this one has a clear answer. They are and have been, for a long time. The thing is… it’s a very nuanced and complex problem that cannot be fixed overnight. As someone who follows professional sports very closely, I know for a fact that many of our athletes are pouring their resources back into American cities in hopes that they can create a lasting change for the next generation. I promise you that many of them are willing to “put their money where their mouth is” and spend far more time in service to their communities than we are. And all of that aside, no one should have to come to their defense for using their platform to speak out against something that directly impacts many of them, or try to dictate how they respond to racial injustice.
4. “The BLM movement is full of Marxist ideology and anti-biblical sentiments.”
A person can fully believe in the notion that “Black lives matter” and not affiliate or endorse the group that operates under the same name. But, if we actually read the “What We Believe” statement of the BLM movement (which you can find here) we might find that we agree with many of their sentiments. We might also find that we do NOT agree with many of their sentiments, and that is ok, too. The problem is when we let ourselves become distracted from the primary issue at hand by fixating on certain ideological differences. In the end, my hope is that we can all agree on the overarching idea that the lives of our Black brothers and sisters do indeed, matter. As for the anti-Marxist sentiment, I think we should all be wary to disregard the cries of the oppressed who find hope in a system (Socialism) that is designed to share resources. It is easy to come to the defense of capitalism when you find yourself on the side of the metaphorical “winning team”.
Never before in my life have I felt like I am a part of history more than I have these past six months. The events and circumstances we find ourselves in will be discussed long after we are dead. My hope is that these snapshots in history happening all around us serve as small windows into the hidden reality that lurks just under the surface and permeates every nook and cranny of our nation. May these specific photographs lead us to recognize the much larger photo album of our nation – an album full of systemic injustices that need to change.
I know that one simple blog post is not enough of a response, I get it. But I want to do my part. And to other white people reading this, we ALL need to do our part to live in anti-racist ways to help dismantle the systems of oppression and abuse of power. It is not just a problem for people of color to solve. Director of the Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law, Savala Trepczynski, had this to say on the issue:
“Until a critical mass of white people begin and continue the work of anti-racism with their own lives, then uprisings and protests will function more as expressions of Black and brown pain than as inflection points in the culture. After all, black and brown people have been resisting, uprising, and protesting in this country for centuries. If that were enough, it would have worked already. The missing link is white people doing deep, honest, and ongoing inventories (and clean-up) of their own relationship to white supremacy.”
The time is NOW for us to do exactly what Ms. Trepczynski is calling us to do – dig deep, repent, self-reflect, and advocate against racist systems and the deeper issue of white supremacy that still is a part of our nation today.
Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd are only the most recent names of Black people who have been murdered by officers who are sworn to protect them. I encourage you to follow the link below to read more of the names and stories of countless others who have lost their lives to police violence.
Full article from Director of the Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law, Savala Trepczynski.