Sunday, August 9, 2015

It's Time to Take Responsibility: #AllLivesMatter

Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Several hundred people, including activists and religious leaders, gathered on Canfield Drive and observed four and a half minutes of silence before marching to a local church.

Since the Michael Brown incident, there have been other incidents of what activists are calling a war on black lives by white police officers. From Eric Garner to Sandra Bland to Christian Taylor, it seems this is all we are talking about.  Social media is exploding with rants, hashtags, and protests that #blacklivesmatter.

And then Cecil the Lion gets killed, and #lionslivesmatter.

Don't #alllivesmatter?  That's what they taught me in Sunday school when I was a little kid. Every Sunday at the Episcopal church we sat at little tables and colored pictures of Jesus with lambs, his outstretched hand beckoning the flock. "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight..." we sang in unison, happy smiles on our faces.

When in the world did we become so fractured, again?   Never in my life have I been so aware of racial tensions throughout the country, and I lived through the '60s.

In 2009, we had the President of the United States standing up on television asserting his personal view that "there's a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos stopped by law enforcement disproportionately."

Now, we can get into statistics and studies and evaluate the bias, or lack of bias, of whomever conducted said studies, and we can argue about that all day long. But it seems to me that if you're breaking a law, any law, then you may have to answer to that at some point.  Bottom line.

Just stick to Michael Brown for a moment. If he hadn't walked into the store, assaulted the owner, and stolen some cigarillos, Darren Wilson would never have confronted him.

Did Brown deserve to die for stealing cigarillos?

No, of course not.

Did he deserve to die for leaning into Wilson's car and assaulting him?  Well, no, but you up the danger-stakes somewhat when you assault an officer.  Brown made some pretty bad choices there.

The New Yorker has a long profile of Darren Wilson and the incident in Ferguson that day. Both Wilson and his wife have left the police force and can no longer work in law enforcement because they are considered a liability -- too dangerous. They live in hiding behind sunglasses and security cameras. Wilson has been cleared of any wrongdoing but now is facing a civil suit by Brown's parents. All of these people feel all this "resentment" and anger toward Wilson who, to be honest, was just doing his job. When we look at the actual facts and put aside the emotion of the case, it's not hard to see that. Yes, it was tragic, of course.

But, my point isn't to retry Darren Wilson or what happened that day; let's look at the Sandra Bland case. Why are the police being blamed for her death? She refused to comply with a reasonable order, was confrontational and uncooperative every step of the way, and then took her own life.  But we're going to demonize the police for that all over social media.

My family was on the receiving end last fall of police error, as you may remember if you've been around a while. A neighbor heard kids screaming, thought some woman was being abused, called the cops, and they stormed through my front door with weapons drawn and demanded to know where the screaming was coming from. It was terrifying. And yes, it made us furious. But it was all a mistake. We still have some bitterness about it because the department covered their guy and admitted to no wrongdoing whatsoever, but it's all in the past and as a retired police officer himself, my husband realizes that things happen. It's a very stressful job and certainly a thankless one.

As I reflect back over the past year, and the explosion on social media demonizing police, I personally feel the need to step back from that.

Just this week, here in Shreveport, we lost a bright, young police officer who was shot in the head and killed by a cold-hearted criminal who was already wanted for attempted murder. Officer Thomas LeValley answered a domestic call and was killed for it. They are burying him today.

And yet the drum-beat of anti-police rhetoric continues. Even here in Shreveport, some don't even have the decency to hush until after this boy is buried.

As a nation, we have to stop this. We have to pull together and we have to, absolutely have to, stop letting the Louis Farrakans, the Jesse Jacksons, and the other race whores drive division between us. Do I blame Obama for all this?  No, not directly, but do I think he has set race relations back fifty years?  You bet I do.  Social media hasn't helped, but Obama has been far, far from a peacemaker on this.

It's time for us all to take responsibility for our own actions, put morals and integrity back on the table, teach our children respect for authority and laws, and quit giving a pass to criminals because they've had a hard life.

All. Lives. Matter.

1 comment:

Jayhawk said...

I take your point, but have you ever heard of the crime of "driving while black"? It is very real, and it is humiliating, and it should be a crime for a law officer to do it. People of color have been subjected to it for more than a century and they are angry. Laws have been passed and, in many cases, ignored.

"Stop and frisk" in New York meant you could be stopped and patted down merely because your skin was the wrong color. New York stopped the practice and New York police are still doing it.

You were subjected to what you suffered because the police made a mistake. Black people are sunjected to it because they are black and powerless. No mistake, the police did on purpose, and they might well do it again. If you are black you live under that threat all the time. They are fed up with it.

When you counter "Black Lives Matter" with "All Lives Matter" you are making a put down; belittling their movement. Yes, all lives matter equally, but they are staking their place in the world. Think of a child seeking to be noticed who says "look at me<" and the adult replies, "No, you're just like everyone else. You're not worth noticing." Authority has been saying that black lives do not matter and black people are saying that they do.

Martin Luther King devoted his life to making this society more inclusive for black people. We made some progress, not enough, and now we are going backwards. I applaud people of color for renewing his efforts and support their movement to regain what has been lost and to move beyond what was.