Lives Matter

Today’s article is born of two dilemmas; one current, the other a few years old. Let’s explore.

Staying with tradition for Sunday articles I want to write about the most important political story of last week. There is plenty to choose from. The Japanese Prime Minister resigned, over one million people made new claims for unemployment compensation for the 22nd of the last 23 weeks (the week that missed the mark didn’t do it by much), two hurricanes hit the lower 48, thousands of Americans died from the conoravirus pandemic and the platform free Republican Party (does that mean they officially stand for nothing?) formally nominated Donald Trump for another term as President. I’m choosing the murder of Jacob Blake as the biggest.

Last Sunday a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin shot Blake in the back seven times at extremely close range. I appreciate the challenges a street cop has. My complaints with policing are largely ones of policy which comes from much higher up including legislators who never seem to get blamed. For a liberal I’m pretty pro-police. I look at a lot of the incidents and try to find the grey area. I’m wondering if I’m seeing accurate video evidence in this case because based on what I’ve seen I can’t even come close to justifying the officer’s actions.

The other incident I want to talk about is Tamir Rice. Tamir was a twelve year old boy playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland, Ohio park when police shot him dead within seconds of rolling up on him in their squad car. In this case the dispatcher didn’t do the officers any favors. The original 911 caller stated that the gun may well be a toy and that the person was very likely not a full grown man but a boy. The dispatch to the officers said they were to look for a Black man with a gun. Can you see how that may have affected their mindset? I can. In any event that doesn’t justify a shooting first and investigating later.

A few years ago I had a breakfast meeting with a sociologist who later became my friend. The conversation turned to the, at that time new, Black Lives Matter movement. At that point I hadn’t given it a lot of thought and admitted that if I was advising a candidate that would be a difficult one to “handle”. (Other than a friendship, the best thing to come out of that encounter was that she recommended I read Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow which I did shortly thereafter. If you haven’t already read it I strongly recommend you do. It may well be a life changer for you if you, like me, are white.) With the benefit of thought, research and the some history today I would advise any candidate to wholeheartedly embrace the Black Lives Matter movement. More importantly than politically it is the correct thing to do morally.

Last week demonstrations were held around the country, particularly in Kenosha. Unfortunately the Kenosha demonstrations turned fatal when a seventeen year old white boy from Illinois turned up on the scene carrying an assault rifle– he claims as part of a militia – to protect property and keep the peace. (I thought that is what we had professional law enforcement for.) Two people ended up shot to death by our “vigilante”. If the police are proving inadequately trained to handle these types of situations – and that is not the fault of the line officers – does any thinking person actually believe that these right wing nut cases bearing arms are?

People will write books on this matter and I could go on but I won’t. Let me simply state that if Black lives don’t matter soon none will.

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