And there is revolt, some would say, riot. And some would quote King and his calls for peace.
Those same individuals, narrow and selfish in their scope, forget that it was MLK who stated that “A riot, is the language of the unheard.” And for as long as America has had to consider the real value of Black lives and the cost that it’s prejudice and oppression has had on those lives, we have failed to listen.
Even now. Still now, you in your homes, and within your heart and head, and with your children, and in our schools and churches, and in our refusal to be present for this suffering.
More Black lives lost at the hands of police officers. Death. Lives extinguished in questionable circumstances with practices justified only by a public too cowardly, ignorant or simply afraid to call the institution of policing into question.
Black citizens cannot simply assume that they will be given the opportunity to comply and live. All video evidence suggests otherwise. Hands on steering wheel. Hands in the air. Hands in the air trying to soothe a child with special needs. With your family. In front of children. It simply has not mattered. It simply will not matter.
It won’t because, as a nation family, we will not be brave and sensible, and humane enough to address the core problems that arise with regard to how our peacekeepers view and police Black citizens. We will not teach that death is not an option when contacting a citizen that is not a threat to anyone in that moment. We will not teach that no one, not anywhere, is fit to police a community that they know nothing about, are negatively prejudiced against and have no empathy toward.
We have armed strangers, state sanctioned them to be authorities over people that they cannot effectively communicate with, failed to provide them with skills to de-escalate and counsel, and unleashed them. After doing so, we fail to effectively prosecute their crimes, for which we, as a society, are partly guilty. As these police officers were never prepared, not emotionally, not psychologically, for the task before them. These deaths are, in part, on us, as a nation family.
We, tax paying citizens, don’t even feel empowered to say that these police officers could potentially be at fault. We don’t have the agency to argue that they, being human, could have made mistakes grounded in fear, stress, prejudice…
No, we have created a language society wherein we cannot allow for a thorough process of review when it comes to the loss of Black life at the hands of police. See, that would require that we allowed Black citizens and peoples and families the same range of human consideration that we allow all other groups of people, and we shamefully struggle with that concept. In our minds eye, Black persons exist as figments, and fantasies, and statistics, and problems as opposed to symptoms, and they stand as simple structures for which we emotionally project all of our society’s ills and frustrations. The Black community has been low hanging fruit for this practice for centuries.
Beyond actively, and loudly, refusing to prevent these abuses and to reform and demilitarize community policing, we fail Black lives, and communities and neighbors and families, by simply deciding that the issues is theirs alone.
We can rally around abuses to animals, nationally, and scream collectively that this must stop. We can rally around abuses to children and scream collectively that this must stop. And we should. These are just and right. However, we can see Black men dying in front of us. Rewind and view again. And there is no national movement toward ending that violence.
To protect our ideas of meritocracy, and to blindly invest ourselves in the authorities that supposedly protect our way of life, a way of life grounded in White Supremacy from it’s inception, we would go on allowing for public executions. The value of those lives, and their loss, does not stir us.
Should you fail to speak on behalf of a vulnerable family group, do understand that you are a kind of coward. You equate the principle of standing for others lives with violating some supposed act with your nation, and failing in your patriotic duty. What you, in your rush to go along, fail to see is the very language and reality of that dynamic. Fighting to protect Black lives is somehow anti-American. It is somehow anti-patriotic.
These are all lies that we tell ourselves to deflect from the truest of the issues before us. White Americans, the single most influential power base within our nation family, have remained effectively silent. When it is these voices that would bring most change.
That is not to say that all White Americans have remained silent. We have heard from social justice warriors. We have heard from many White women. We have not heard from White men. Not collectively. Not those with a platform to bring about any change.
I am left to conclude that most White men are at peace with these circumstances. That many, not all, are willing to see these deaths as the cost of doing business and maintaining a kind of status quo, a self-serving and ever churning one.
Naturally, there will be some of you who miss the point even now, convinced that your decency and goodness are being called into question. Many of you will think to yourselves that you “don’t see race”, and assume that this colorblindness is somehow of service to your neighbors. You will fail to see it for the added cowardice it is. Your neighbors have to live with their race every day. A decent being would create a dynamic for their neighbor to unload the stress of that reality.
If White Americans, as a collective, were to speak out against the wrong doing. Not against police officers themselves, but against the shoddy work which has cost lives. Were they to emphasize to need for cultural sensitivity and awareness, were they to preach immersion before being granted authority, those voices would go a long way toward change.
We are at a critical juncture, and many of us, those who have argued for empathy and meeting of the minds in the past, are wondering about your presence, your effort, your voice, and your humanity. Thus far, I have been disappointed.
There is time still. Speak up. Not simply to the extent of your understanding. Reach with your humanity toward the suffering and trauma visited upon Black neighbors. See it. Speak up.
Photo: Getty Images