Injustice is Here
The protests in Minneapolis over the shooting of Jamar Clark have entered the third week. Since the beginning I have felt the need to be present as a ally, as a witness, as a participant. In the past weeks several of my white friends have reached out to me to ask me why? I feel as if others have pulled away from me, some have joined me and a few have accused me of participating in riots and violence.
Before we begin, let me get this out in front:
- I do NOT defend or support the actions of SOME of the protesters who chose to engage in physical or verbal violence.
- I do NOT believe that ALL COPS are evil and I know some who do excellent work in a very difficult setting. I am thankful for them,
However, evidence and the experience of millions show that there is a serious problem with the system of policing and incarceration. Brutality and abuse is common, trust and respect have eroded to a place that without significant changes we will experience greater and greater conflicts and crisis. Change must come for peace to take root.
This is an attempt to explain my beliefs and motives which, I believe, demand that we join our voices in this cry for justice. I am there for the following three reasons:
INJUSTICE IS HERE
It is 2015 and the trail of destruction caused by 500 years of enslavement, genocide and white supremacy is still very evident.
As a child and young man, I like many white Americans, believed the only remnant of racism that had to be rooted out was in the hearts of a few evil people. If I checked my thinking and words, if evil people stopped being racist, if we just treated everyone as equal; racism would dry-up and blow away. But then I moved into a predominantly African-American community. I lived and worked there for over 26 years. It was the best thing I could ever have done to realize how real, how powerful, and often, how subtle modern racism is.
I had never thought twice about driving a car or truck with a cracked windshield, I knew I would never get stopped or questioned. But no friend of color would borrow my car, especially if it was at night and in North Minneapolis. The police WOULD stop them and then begin a barrage of interrogation, fishing for something so they might be able to search the vehicle and make an arrest. This experience is backed up by research that finds that people of color are 3.5 times more likely to be stopped by police than whites, yet these stops are ½ has likely to find contraband of any kind.
Almost every African American I have known in the past 27 years has countless stories of profiling and police misconduct; from pastors to lawyers and professors (Read about Professor Steve Locke’s recent police encounter) to kids in the neighborhood to moms and grandmas the overarching narrative is the same. White folks like me can accept this chorus of testimony, or dismiss them all as liars, race-baiters, and violent people who get what they deserve. We (white folks) can work to bridge the racial gap, or we can make it greater and more hostile if we listen to and follow race-baiting media and politicians. The solution to the race problem in America does not lie with people of color, any lasting solution must begin through awareness and action on the part of white people. We started the mess, we must begin to take responsibility to clean it up,
One must know however that abusive policing in Minneapolis and other cities is not limited to occasional interactions with people of color. I frequently observed such behavior myself. You would never know when you called the police if you would get an officer who would be professional and kind or one who would be rude and aggressive making the very situation they were called to diffuse more volatile.
We are not talking about isolated events, or even the actions of a few “bad apples” what we are dealing with is a system, from initial training of police officers to the processes of investigation and prosecution of misconduct. The system of America needs to be completely reworked before these abusive injustices can be ended for good. This MPR article discusses some changes that could make significant strides to racial justice in policing.
During a meeting last week, I had the opportunity to hear the testimony of an eyewitness to Jamar Clark’ killing. While he could not see Clark from the waist up – he did see a man lying still and subdued on the ground before a shot rang out. This MPR report highlights the reports of witnesses and police. I believe a man was killed for no reason, yet regardless of what the evidence will show, the climate that has created this distrust must be addressed by significant changes in how the police interact with people of color.
I could fill this section of the post with statistics, studies and facts; but I’ve been around social media enough to know that no matter what facts are demonstrated, people will only believe what they want to believe. If that’s what you want you can find some here and here.
I don’t want to try to prove to you something you do not believe exists, I CAN’T
BUT I can ask you why?
(not all of these questions apply to everyone – but they are common white reactions to the discussion of violence against blacks)
- Why do you assume a black or brown person who files a complaint against the police probably did something wrong?
- Why would you tend to believe a police officer you do NOT know over the word of a friend you DO know?
- Why do you believe that the presence of “black on black” crime excuses “blue on black” crime?
- Why does the stereotypical demagogy from another white person influence you more than the passionate word of a disciplined person who happens to be black?
If you’ve read this far, thanks. To dig into your own perceptions and beliefs is hard work, but it is the work we must do to begin to move towards beloved community.