I have seen so many people awaken over the last few months and weeks. A realization that we must “do something” to address persisting issues within aspects of our criminal justice and law enforcement systems. Many are awakening from a period of complacency. The disillusionment and feeling of despair comes from pulling back the shutters and seeing the magnitude of a problem long forgotten. Others simply remain in denial with their heads buried in the sand. While others have never missed a beat, continuing to plug along fighting the good fight no matter how small the reward. There has been some change in circumstances but at the same time failure to continue to hold those in positions of authority accountable, has exacerbated the challenges we were already facing. The 24/7 news cycle and social media just helps us put the magnitude into perspective. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr have become an organizer’s dream. The Hashtag has allowed hundreds, even thousands, to show solidarity and share the message.
Instead of understanding why people feel the need to collaborate and stand together, there are those that choose to antagonize and be divisive. People who push back at a need to stress how or why “Black Lives Matter” fail to understand the systemic issues which have allowed for black people to be continuously subjugated in multiple venues. This isn’t whining, or disruption of “good” Americans. People are taking a stand and demanding this country live up to its promises of Liberty and Justice for All. A country that was founded on the premise that individuals were entitled to live free from tyranny of the oppressor, cannot now turn its back on that basic right. Calling for accountability and reform among law enforcement and the criminal justice system is not synonymous with being against those two entities. A person can be in favor of reform and also respect the law. They are not mutually exclusive. Yesterday’s ambush and murder of two unsuspecting NYPD officers was tragic. No sane person would wish that on any family. Likewise no sane person would equate exercising the rights of freedom of speech and peaceful assembly, cornerstones of our democracy, with murdering police officers or any other member of law enforcement. People are frustrated, and tired of continued abuses of civil liberties and constitutional rights. However, no matter how angry or frustrated we may feel, violence is never the answer. Neither is overgeneralization. It is time we take the braces of our brains and think about what is at stake for our democracy.
As the so-called bastion of democracy and human rights, we must take care of the persisting issues that continue to pop up in our communities. Saying “Black Lives Matter” does not equate to hate. Self-determination is not now, nor has it ever been a call for acts of terror. The point has been to raise awareness of how Black people are disproportionately subjugated to gestapo style tactics which fly in the face of the very law our “protectors” allegedly serve. If serve and protect is the motto, how can one advocate for all-out war on the masses? If you swear to uphold the laws of this land, how can you be against freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly? The founders placed a high premium on freedom of speech and the right to peaceful assembly. And we need to continue to exercise those rights while simultaneously advancing dialogue along a clear and thoughtful course of sustainable action. Saying that police need to be held accountable for abuse of power and brutality does not mean their lives and good work in the community do not matter to us.
All over the internet people are throwing around phrases like “race war” and “race baiting.” Even allegedly reputable cable news outlets have engaged in this unsavory behavior. Any fringe entities advocating violence of this nature have been renounced time and time again. Even indulging in chants advocating violence at otherwise peaceful protest should be shunned. It deters from the overall message. This isn’t a movement that is anti-police. Like with any grouping of diverse individuals, there can be factions with different beliefs. Regardless of our differences in ideology, there need to be basic rules of engagement to protect the overall message. Conversely, the reaction to the tragic killings of Officers Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos is unbalanced in comparison to killings of officers by white anti-government/anti-police individuals. In June 2014, two alleged supporters of Clive Bundy were responsible for the murder of five people, including two police officers in Las Vegas, NV. In September 2014, a “survivalist” with anti-law enforcement beliefs was apprehended after weeks on the run. He targeted and murdered one officer in PA. Police describe him as being dedicated to killing police officers. Or recently in Tallahassee, FL when deputies were ambushed resulting in the death of an officer. Where were the news pundits and Police Union reps calling for “war”? Just like these incidents are not reflective or indicative of any particular movement, ideology, or brand, neither should the horrific murder of Officers Liu and Ramos be imputed to those across the country pleading for greater accountability. Saturday’s tragedy is antithetical to everything people are working toward. We need balance in our approach, restraint, and resolve. Hate mongering and digging in our heels does nothing but further divide people when we all want the same thing…to return home to our families.
“Good” cops should stand with us and work with local communities nationwide to ensure that everyone regardless of position is playing by the rules. “Good” cops and their supporters should want to make sure that all laws, including those that protect against abusive and intrusive action by authoritative bodies comports to the constitutional protections provided to us at birth. If the founders simply sat quiet and let the red coats do whatever they wanted, we would all be drinking high tea and honoring the crown. We have to remember the values and virtues upon which this country was founded, and not let individual political persuasions derail us from living up to our full potential. I teach my children to respect authority but to also speak up against injustice and blatantly bad behavior. When you look back on this moment, will you be able to tell your children and grandchildren you stood on the right side of history?