How many of you have taken a shot of tequila? It burns. It burns like hell, which is why that salt and lime are mainstays. But even with the salt and lime, many people just can’t handle it. Most people who can’t swallow their tequila, just choose to leave it alone and leave those that can enjoy the spirit to it. But then, there are always those few people who want to be seen enjoying it, too. So, they water down their shot to make it easier to swallow.
Well, guess what, institutional racism is a long standing problem in our law enforcement and justice system. It is a reality and it is a harsh one. It is tough for a lot of people to swallow because it burns against everything we pretend to be. Black Lives Matter confronts this ugly truth, defining a legitimate problem in our society and demanding resolution, change and dignity for all people.
All Lives Matter, while coopted by some who are intentionally using it as a racist venue, is otherwise a nice idea. In fact, All Lives Matter is the end idea, the hope that eventually everyone is equal. But what it fails to do is define the systemic problem. Yes, every life should matter, but the problem right now is that not all lives are valued equally. People are being targeted, profiled, attacked, arrested, detained and killed because of how they look rather than what they have done.
It is true that not every incident of police brutality or abuse of power is targeted at black people. However, it occurs in the black community at such an alarmingly higher rate as opposed to white citizens that this cannot be ignored. Well, actually, it has been ignored for a long time.
Until the miraculous advent of high quality video-capturing cell phones in the hands of million of Americans, police brutality was largely hidden from the public eye. There were reports by victims, but easily quashed because, after all, the testimony of a law enforcement officer held far more credibility than someone they arrested or had to shoot. Without evidence to contradict their testimony of events, the abuses went unpunished and largely unseen.
But now, thanks to so many valiant and brave citizens and the social media outlet, the public can see what is happening. It’s what we already knew, at least to some level: Law enforcement agencies all over the country have cultivated a near cultish and exclusive fraternity which not only allows this behavior in officers, but steps up and gives support to the men and women who have broken their vow to protect and serve the public by abusing the power of their badge. We have seen it over and over. California, Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, New York, Oklahoma, Georgia, Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, Arizona… and well, you are getting the idea. This is not an isolated few bad apples, but a systemic problem. And the justice system is quite aware of it.
Sixteen years ago, in 2000, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, released a report the National Institute of Justice, Research in Brief entitled: Police Attitudes Towards Abuse of Authority: Findings from a National Study. This study reveals that 84% of Law Enforcement Officers state they have witnessed excessive force used against citizens, have witnessed abuse of authority by fellow officers. Let that just sink in for a moment. And how does that cult of brotherhood come in to play? Because this same report states that 64% of these officers do not report those abuses they witness. They choose to protect one another rather than protecting the citizens. And that is the statistic which is causing the most harm in how the public views law enforcement.
How can anyone, let alone a profiled minority group, give blind trust to the police community when we know, by their own admission, that the majority of officers will choose to protect their fellows rather than the citizens they are sworn to serve? The U.S. Department of Justice knew this sixteen years ago and yet, it has been allowed to continue. It has taken citizens armed with camera phones willing to risk their own safety to make these abuses a matter of public discussion.
It is also a fact that black people, black men in particular, are specifically profiled by the law enforcement community. This is well documented and a long standing practice. Florida is the poster child for racial profiling by police with ridiculous abuse of their Stop and Frisk laws. Despite being outed for intentionally profiling black men between the ages 5 to 99 in 2014 by local news agencies, they are still riddled with reports of abusing this law to harass the black community. However, many other states were quietly competing. Between 2011 and 2015, New York detained 776,472 black Americans (84.5% without merit) as opposed to 141,082 white Americans. You can find a similar disparity in other cities and states across the U.S.. (With fairness to New York, the numbers they have detained have dropped dramatically in the last two years, however the black to white ratio has remained a constant and the number of meritless detentions has remained well over 80% for each year.)
So, when you combine systemic racial profiling and abuse of power, along with complacency to it within the police community, at some point those who have been targeted or witnessed abuse, or have a shred of empathy in their bodies or any sense of a moral compunction for human equality, are going to stand up and say, “Enough!”
All Lives Matter is a nice idea of equality, but it does not represent the problem. Black Lives Matter addresses a real issue, a valid issue that is substantiated in statistical and researched facts. Facts supported, moreover, by the videos emerging every week of senseless brutality. Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives don’t. It does not mean that all police officers are bad. But this is not a few bad officers. This is not an occasional instance. It is part of the system and it needs to be purged.
Racism has been an intrinsic mainstay in Law Enforcement. Period. That is some harsh Tequila, and it is tough to swallow for people who have been led (allowed themselves) to believe that black people are profiled more because they commit more crimes. But a black person is far more likely to be detained, abused, arrested, shot at, killed and/or charged with a crime than a white person is for the same action. If convicted of a crime, black people receive, on average, much harsher, longer sentences, fines and jail time as opposed to a white person for the same offense. You can’t water down the truth simply because you don’t like it. So, All Lives Matter, grab yourself some salt and limes and take a shot of reality. Then, after you’ve had that bracer, if you actually believe all lives should matter, then walk over, pick up a sign and help out BLM. Why? Because until black lives matter, too, the reality that all lives matter can’t exist. When anyone is discriminated against, brutally profiled or seen as less worthy of freedom, then none of us are equal, every freedom is in jeopardy.
We are One Woman, One World.