Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Black and Blue: Why #BlackLivesMatter Still Matters

Man, Myth, Mike has been on a bit of a hiatus, however, I wanted to use my writing talk about an important issue. I understand it is a rather controversial subject for some but I believe it is a dialogue worth having. Sometimes in life we need to have those conversations that make us uncomfortable.

#BlackLivesMatter Captain America accessibility logo.
Black Lives Matter; what comes to mind when you hear this phrase? To some, these three words have a very divisive, even negative connotation to them. For many others, this statement is the rally cry for racial equality. Being a social justice concerned person, I feel very strongly about this cause. As a white middle-class male I realize have a certain level of privilege. I may not know what it’s like to be a black person but I can use my position to be an ally. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." 

The topic of police brutality carried out against African-Americans, has garnered much heated discussion lately. Social and news media has been flooded with debate following the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of the police. Tensions have only worsened after a gunman in Dallas opened fire on protesters and police, killing 5 officers and injuring several others. Furthermore, with the deadly Baton Rouge police ambush. The feelings of pain and uncertainty are palpable especially within the black and police communities. I believe we all have the capacity to mourn both the police killed and those who are killed by police. I also think we should take the time to truly understand the problem of institutional bigotry.

Racism in the United States is continuum of oppression dotted with hard-fought victories, spanning more than 200 years. The Black Lives movement may have started relatively recently but it’s ideas and goals are certainly nothing new. Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. King and Malcolm X, themselves spoke out against police brutality and the inequities within the criminal justice system. Today, those who are black continue to face disproportionate rates of police violence, higher incarceration levels and harsher prison sentences. So many Americans are still regarded with suspicion simply because of their skin color. My friend and fellow activist, Vilissa Thompson remarked in her powerful blog post"My soul and heart are so burdened with fears for not only myself, but those I love, and if I become a parent, my future children.”

Despite this documented discrimination, many white casual observers remain skeptical that a problem even exists. The BLM (Black Lives Matter) cause is far too often misconstrued as anti-law enforcement or dismissed as “race baiting”. In regards to these opinions, President Obama very diplomatically said: "When people say black lives matter, that doesn't mean blue lives don't matter, it just means all lives matter but right now, the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents.”  Being against police brutality is not anti-police, much like being against food-poisoning does not make one anti-restaurant.

I have a lot of respect for police officers, they have one of the most difficult professions around. However, I don’t believe an organization charged with public protection, funded by taxpayers of all races, should treat certain groups with harsher regard. It is important that all police strive to follow the lead of cops and departments who are doing the right thing. Overall, I believe it’s time that our society re-examined it’s philosophy when it comes to crime and justice. We have to ask ourselves: Why we value punishment more than rehabilitation? Why retribution is more important to us than deescalation? Why it’s easier to justify a death than empathize with a life?

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