Wednesday, June 10, 2020

We The People Protest

The world is a lot right now. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and want to block it all out. But in some ways I feel more hopeful than I have in quite some time. I mean, granted, we’re in the midst of converging and intertwining crises on an unprecedented scale. But in certain ways this unprecedentedness is good.

No, not in the Trump The Dictator way or the ongoing deadly global pandemic way, but in the way that in so many places across America (and, truly, the world) we’re having clear-eyed and impassioned conversations about race. We’re having clear-eyed and impassioned conversations about systematic injustice. And we’re having clear-eyed and impassioned conversations about how to implement big, complicated and necessary structural change.

We are living with systems that do not work equally for everyone. From our health care system to our education system to our criminal justice system to our political system – we know we have massive problems. Yet the inertia of the status quo, willful ignorance by others and violent backlash from those who profit most from keeping our current power structures exactly as is continues to stop us from changing them.

Of course there have been protests and movements and activism and marches before. Yet seeing how people have taken to the streets en masse like this feels like a lifetime defining event in many ways. People are recognizing inequality and demanding change in towns large, small and even teeny-tiny across all 50 states. And we must.

The truth is Black America can’t solve our disgraceful national legacy of racism alone. And it’s not Black people’s responsibility to make white people less racist. White people need to do the work. White people need to educate themselves. White people need to feel that same injustice and rage and sorrow and exhaustion that Black, indigenous, other people of color and marginalized people feel every single day. And they need to commit to working even harder to ending this learned behavior of racism.

The thing is, change is possible. Look at the strides we’ve made in the LGBTQ community not just in our lifetimes, but in the last five years. It wasn’t until June 26, 2015 that queer people across this country could marry legally in all 50 states. Just three years before that Joe Biden, yes that Joe Biden, became the first presidential or vice presidential candidate from a major party to fully endorse marriage equality. This has all happened within the last decade. Granted, we still have a long, long way to go. But, again, change is possible.

We need to acknowledge that we have lived with unacceptable systematic issues in our police departments across this country since their inception. Today our police departments are too militarized and not trained adequately in de-escalation or implicit bias. They’re also too homogenized both in gender, race and political thought. And to be completely honest, they’re wildly ineffective despite the billions of dollars poured into the system nationally.

This is not a slam on all of the people in law enforcement. Many, many good people do work in this system. This is a slam on the system they are forced to work in. And an effort to make their work more meaningful and impactful. According to the most recent full FBI crime statistics from 2018, police departments across the country only clear 45.5 percent of violent crimes and 17.6 percent of property crimes.

So when someone on your Facebook feed screams, “But what about rape! Home burglary! Stolen vehicles!” tell them the FBI says only 33.4 percent of rapes, 13.9 percent of burglaries, and 13.8 percent of vehicle thefts are cleared anyway. Sure, better than nothing. But those aren’t exactly stats to crow about. We can do better, but obviously not if we just keep doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. So changing to a more effective system will actually help the good people both do their jobs and fulfill the actual mission of protecting and serving.

Here’s the thing, we ask too much of our police departments, period. Police shouldn’t be dealing with the mentally ill, but they are the ones called out whenever a mentally ill person is having a crisis. Police shouldn’t be dealing with the homeless, yet they are the ones called out when someone considers a homeless person a problem. Police shouldn’t be dealing with domestic violence (which is not to say domestic abusers shouldn’t face consequences, they absolutely should), but they’re the ones called out to handle domestic abuse despite not having the training or resources to deal with these issues in a way that actually solves them or effectively improves the lives of the abused.

What America is talking about in regards to its law enforcement system is indeed radical, but not in the scary way Fox News wants you to hear the word. It’s radical in that we’re attempting to tackle what has previously been seen as an intractable issue and saying, yes, we can do something about this. Yes, we can make this better.

Will we do something about this? Will we make it better? So much of the entrenched power structure of this country does not want to see that happen, from that Orange Stain in the White House on down. But we can if the people who have historically benefited most from our unfair systems join in and decide they will not allow their privilege to hurt others anymore. And the encouraging thing is throughout our history, many have from abolitionists to white allies in the 1960s Civil Rights movement to white and non-Black allies in the Black Lives Matter movement today. Be inspired by that, take strength from that. We’re the change we want to see. Keep protesting, it’s working.

1 comment:

Helena said...

Thank you for this insightful article. And so true protesting has always worked in the history of the world.