Every day a new video circulates of bad behavior by police. Someone is harassed, beaten, or even killed in what appears to be an absolutely senseless fashion. Far too often, the victims are black – but not always. It can, and does, happen to nearly anyone.
Earlier this week, another video came in from Toronto. Constable Ken Lam was seen facing down the suspect in a mass killing with determination and grace. He never flinched, and eventually made a peaceful arrest. It was law enforcement at its very best.
What is different? There are many things that made this different, including the race of the suspect, to be sure. But as an example of the kind of cool professionalism we all hope to see in our police there is one important difference in Toronto – their law enforcement officers are paid much, much better than the average US cop.
My thesis is this: there is nothing more important to the future of our nation than ending racism, particularly institutional racism. This has become a desperate matter of survival for far too many people when it comes to the issue of police killings. These tragedies happen disproportionately to minorities largely because of racism.
Yet the problem goes far beyond that. There is not a single issue in this nation which does not ultimately become polarized and frozen by race. Much of the resistance to government intervention and assistance comes down to a belief that “They” are getting the benefits – the mysterious “other” that is easily blamed for everything. It prevents us from having a useful discussion about “Us”, a free and united people ready to tackle the changes of our world bravely and directly.
But let’s stay with police killings for a moment. Let’s talk about how we get from where we are to a world where no cringes in fear when the disco lights and sirens blare, a world where Black Lives Matter. Let’s talk about how complex issues with hardened battle lines are taken on so that we can get past the problem. Let’s talk about tactics, or how a battle is won.
Another day, another person dead from a police bullet. Another night of unrest as anger spills out into the streets. Another heated round of angry statements from all sides shouting past each other. Another opportunity missed to speak words of healing, love, and respect.
We say “Black Lives Matter” because it is not at all obvious that our nation believes this. It seems obvious enough that “All Lives Matter”, but when you focus on those of us who are darker life seems much more disposable, much easier to kick to the curb and forget.
When we say Black Lives Matter we say it not as a direct challenge in opposition to the officers in uniform or to white people. We say it as a challenge to the systems that produce far too much death far too easily, and as with everything bad in our nation that death falls heavily, horrifically on black people. That is why we have to keep saying it until it is true – Black Lives Matter.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests were forcefully removed from their 18 day encampment outside the Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis – and then took their protest to City Hall. In between they reiterated their demands – Release the tapes, appoint a special prosecutor with no grand jury to investigate the death of Jamar Clark, and institute a safety plan to protect Minneapolis residents from continued police violence.
It’s far from over and the problems did not start with the shooting of Clark by the Minneapolis police. This is a systemic problem and while it wasn’t the protesters’ choice this belongs squarely in City Hall at this point. It’s not about one incident with one police officer but a system, a city, that are not functioning anything like they must.
For an election that’s more than a year out, this one sure is making a lot of noise. And, like most noise in an election, it’s about 90% (cowpuckey). But if you listen closely, there may be something very big happening just beneath the surface. It’s not very loud yet, but it may reverberate into some beautiful music.
The sound that you may not hear is the progressive left getting its act together.
With the fans of Sen Sanders going after Sec Clinton – and getting a little bit in return – it’s hard to see how this band is going to come together. But after Clinton’s confrontation with Black Lives Matter (BLM) something wonderful has happened – people seem to be listening. If we all start doing more listening and a little less “speaking up”, as the left is wont to do, this may yet come together.