Because Floyd’s slow death by four police officers was caught contemporaneously on video, we are properly outraged. The question is, what are you going to do about it?
- Let’s black out social media pages.
- Let’s post statements of solidarity.
- Let’s tell black folks we feel their pain.
- Let’s tell white folks they’re racist because they were born white.
- Let’s argue over which slogan is the most apropos. (BLM? ALM?)
- Point out other causes of death (black on black crime, et. al.)
The crux of the matter.
It’s not a competition for who is most oppressed. Citizens are dying at the hands of the people we empower and pay. For years we could live in ignorance. For years many of us unconditionally believed the “got injured resisting arrest” coverups. (Of course police will have to use force in some situations and people will get hurt. Not what we are talking about.) The age of video everywhere has brought an end to the illusion.
The abuses and coverups happen because we do not hold individual officers accountable for their misconduct.
- Qualified immunity makes it nearly impossible to legally hold officers responsible for what common sense should tell us is immoral behavior. The Supremes had already started looking at it before the Floyd homicide. It is based on law, not the constitution. Congress needs to act. You need to tell them to. Contact your federal and state representatives today.
- Police unions make it nearly impossible for good police chiefs to fix the problems. Again, contact legislatures to demand changes in union contracts. Better discipline and more transparency. (No, this is not an anti-union screed. If police officers want to negotiate overtime pay and the like, there is nothing wrong with that. But discipline and firing of bad apples should not part of contracts.)
Do those two things and maybe you have done something actually useful.
Stay on target
The Freedom riders movement was successful in part because Americans of all races joined together to fight oppression. If you think the death of George Floyd was wrong and we as a nation need to take steps to fix it, don’t fret whether a potential ally has a different emphasis than you. It is counter-productive: the most likely outcome of splintering into groups based on political philosophy or political party is nothing meaningful will change.
If you’re white and feel your accident of birth imposes extra responsibility on you, that’s fine. If you reject the notion that you are inherently a racist because you were born white, that’s fine too. Police caused deaths have occurred with black Democratic presidents and white Republican ones. They have happened with police chiefs of all races by officers of all races.
Many will attempt to hijack our outrage for monetary or political purposes. Our politics of the moment should focus on demanding legal changes to the system. The other issues can wait for another day.
Down the rabbit hole
If you want to pursue the cause and effect of our police and community becoming estranged with each other, consider the deleterious effects of the following:
- Politicians are fond of raising money using selective back door taxes. Red-light cameras. Revenue from citations. Asset forfeiture. Sin taxes. Eric Garner was choked to death for selling black market cigarettes. Had the politicians and anti-smoking zealots not imposed ruinous taxes on legal cigarettes, Garner would not have been there in the first place. (Smoking might kill over years, choke holds kill now.) Demand that government be funded with direct taxes.
- You don’t call an electrician to fix a water leak. Using police to fight the medical condition of addiction is using the wrong tool for the job, and makes people who are ill criminals. End the war on drugs. Smoking has gone way down since I was a kid without criminalizing it. Education, education, education.
If you pursue this line of thinking to its logical conclusion, you’ll end up being a libertarian, of course. (Except for their naive on foreign policy.) Maybe that’s too far for you to go. That’s fine. Just start with contacting your legislators about unqualified immunity and police unions.