How Change Will Ultimately Be Brought About

Let me start with this:  What happened last week in Dallas was horrific.  It was terrifying.  It was unjust.  It was also inevitable.

Think about it:  An unarmed Trayvon Martin gets gunned down in a quiet neighborhood by an armed vigilante with an obvious fear-slash-hatred of black people.  No consequences.

An unarmed Michael Brown was gunned down by police as he walked down the street.  Eric Garner was wrestled to the ground by multiple police officers for selling cigarettes on a sidewalk.  They put him in a chokehold and strangled him to death.  No consequences.

12 year old Tamir Rice was playing with a toy gun in a public park when police roll up and with precious little warning gun him down.  No consequences.

Freddie Gray was thrown into the back of a police van, unsecured, while the driver—a police officer—took him on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, throwing him all around the back of the van where he hits his head, breaks his neck, and later dies.  No consequences.

17 year old Laquan McDonald was walking down the street when police pull up to him.  McDonald is allegedly armed with a knife, but was nowhere near any police officers and posed a threat to no one.  In fact, he is seen on police dash-cam video moving away from police.  That is the opposite of threatening.  He is shot 16 times by a police officer.  That officer is charged with murder—a small victory.

Walter Scott was shot in the back and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop.  Scott was unarmed, and was running away from the officer, who had pulled his firearm.  The officer lied in his report, which video later contradicted and was charged with murder.  Another small victory.

Then there was last week’s shooting in Baton Rouge, LA, of Alton Sterling, who was selling CD’s outside of a convenience store.  Sterling was armed with a gun—which he was licensed to own and carry—but it was in his pocket, and he in no way motioned for it as officers approached him.  It is still unclear why the police officers approached Sterling, what he had done wrong, but the two of them wrestled Sterling to the ground, pinned him down, and one shot him several times in the chest.  Video shows one of the officers later removing Sterling’s gun from his pocket, where it had remained throughout.  At no time were they threatened.  The United States Justice Department is investigating the case.  The officers are currently suspended without pay.

The very next day, Philando Castile was driving home with his fiancée and her daughter, when he was pulled over by a police officer, ostensibly for a broken tail light.  Castile, according to his fiancée, volunteered to the officer that he did have a weapon with him, and he was licensed to carry it.  Just so there was no misunderstanding.  Castile was asked for his ID, and as he reached for it, the officer shot him and killed him.  In front of his fiancée and her four year old daughter.  Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (a Democrat) stated that if Castile were white, he would still be alive today.  That is a fact.  An uncomfortable fact for Republicans, who roundly condemned Dayton for his remarks.

The list goes on and on and on and on and on………and people are rightly angry, especially black people.  It seems as if it is open season on black men, and there are rarely ever any consequences.  And nothing has changed:  Police policies regarding how they handle traffic stops have not changed.  Procedures have not changed.  Police-community relations have not changed.  Attitudes have not changed.  Proof?  These killings keep happening!

Conservative politicians blame the Black Lives Matter movement for the continued killing of black men.  A preposterous notion.  But they’re an easy target.  It’s easy to blame the people who just want to feel safe in their own neighborhoods; who don’t want to continue to see the police as a threat, which is exactly what they are.  Conservatives say that by protesting how police treat people of color, by exercising their First Amendment right to demand a change to the way people of color are treated by police, that they are at fault for the police continuing to kill people of color, namely black people.

And by and large police departments are going to side with conservative politicians.  After all, the more civil liberties we have, in their view, the more difficult it is to maintain order.  The fewer rights we have, the better.  Law enforcement typically hews to the right of the political spectrum.  And yes, this is a political issue, because it is our civic and national leaders—elected politicians—who are going to have to ultimately solve this problem.

Sadly, I suspect that there is approaching zero chance that this gets solved by reasonable people, particularly on a national scale.  There are too many people casting blame on the victims here.  See President noun-verb-9/11, Rudy Giuliani, who embarked on a series of racists rants over the course of the past weekend on various news outlets, calling the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist.” 

“If you want to deal with this on the black side, you’ve got to teach your children to be respectful to the police, and you’ve got to teach your children that the real danger to them is not the police,” Giuliani said.

“The real danger to them — 99 out of 100 times — is other black kids who are going to kill them,” the Republican ex-mayor added, citing a fake statistic.

“That’s the way they’re gonna die,” he added.

If he “were a black father,” he said, he’d warn his son to “be very careful of those kids in the neighborhood and don’t get involved with them because, son, there’s a 99% chance they’re going to kill you — not the police!”

Or Texas’ Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who blamed the Black Lives Matter protests for the Dallas shootings, calling the protesters present at what was an entirely peaceful event “hypocrites” for running away from where the shots were fired.

“All those protesters last night, they ran the other way, expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them.  What hypocrites,” Patrick said on Fox News.

Scores of other Republicans have blamed President Obama for inciting hatred of police, a charge that’s impossible to take seriously.

Currently there is little chance of our leaders putting their heads together and implementing national reforms that will bring an end to the inherent yet mostly unintentional institutional racism that is rampant in our police departments.  Even when a new president is sworn in, the chances of unity on any subject, let alone one so rife with controversy, is nil.

There is only one way that, given our current circumstances, this will play out to affect real change.  And it’s not pretty.  Not in the least.

Here’s what I think is likely to happen:  A black man is pulled over by police.  He is legally armed, and legally licensed to carry that firearm.  Second Amendment, y’all:  It applies to black people too.

The black man, being respectful yet wary, informs the officer that yes, he does indeed have a weapon in the car with him.  And yes he is licensed to carry that weapon.  The officer is visibly nervous and places his hand on his own firearm.  This sets off alarm bells in the black man, who rightly begins to feel that his life is in danger.

The nitty-gritty details in this hypothetical at this point do not matter.  What does matter is that the black man shoots and kills the officer.  He is later peacefully taken into custody and charged with the murder of a police officer.

At trial, the defense argues that the black man was in fear for his life, and fired in self defense.  They have a myriad of incidents to refer to, seemingly justifying the black man’s fear.  The case goes to the jury, and the black man is acquitted.  Precedent is set that black people have reason to fear the police, and have a right to defend themselves from the police.

Will a scenario like this ultimately lead to the reforms that are so desperately long overdue?  We can only hope that it doesn’t come to this.  The tragic part is that this is what it might take to kick the powers that be into gear toward real reform.

Until then, however, as long as the killings continue, we can expect more Dallases in the years to come.

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