In looking at my previous post, I realized (somewhat ashamedly) that I failed to include and recognize a series of events that should rank higher than the election and perhaps even COVID. I am talking about the events surrounding the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests that took place all across the county. Perhaps this is for the good, since I feel that this subject deserves a place of its own
BLM first came to my attention in 2014 following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYC Police. Mr. Garner’s death was followed by Tamir Rice (Cleveland OH, 11/2014), Walter Scott (N Charleston SC, 4/2015), Alton Sterling (Baton Rouge LA, 7/2016), Philando Castile (St. Paul MN, 7/2016), and Stephon Clark (Sacramento CA, 3/2018). All of these deaths came at the hands of the respective police departments, exposing the systemic racism built into so many of our organizations: civic, government and business.
While I’m fairly certain there have been others, two in 2020 reignited the BLM cause. The first was the death of Breonna Taylor in March. By all accounts, Ms. Taylor was a remarkable young woman. Working as an Emergency Medical Technician while studying to become a nurse, she was sound asleep in her own bed when the door to the apartment she shared with her fiance was broken down by police executing a search warrant. Responding to the break-in, her boyfriend grabbed his gun to defend his home and family. In response, the police officers fired multiple times, killing Ms. Taylor. After no drugs were found (the subject of the warrant,) it turned out that the wrong address had been provided. Further, some accounts noted that this was known before the raid. There is also some discrepancy in accounts on whether the police announced themselves prior to breaking in the door. Of the three officers involved, only one was charged and that charge was one of “wanton endangerment” for firing into an adjoining apartment, not for killing Ms. Taylor. Ultimately, all three of the officers were dismissed, and the city settled with Ms. Taylor’s family in September.
In May 2020, George Floyd went to a convenience store to purchase cigarettes. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, he used suspected counterfeit to pay for it, and the store called the police. When they arrived, there was a brief altercation, and he was subdued. However, one of the cops kept Floyd down on the ground by pressing a knee into his neck. Despite protests from Floyd that he couldn’t breathe and in spite of the expressed concerns of bystanders, this cop kept his knee there for over eight minutes, during which time Floyd passed out. Ultimately, this caused his death.
During the protests that followed, the police often reacted violently, beating and arresting those taking part. Compare this to the treatment of the armed insurrectionists of January 6.
Initial reaction is that the police department has issues with racism and, while that may be true, it also demonstrates systemic racism throughout our nation. When landfills, oil depots, factories, etc. are built, they are all too often placed in or next to BIPOC neighborhoods. Schools in those areas have far fewer resources than those in more affluent neighborhoods (largely through fundraising of the PTA or private donation.) Even infrastructure as simple as bike lanes are concentrated in neighborhoods/areas that are less in need of that alternative transportation.
I won’t pretend to know the answers. For me, the first step will be to be more analytical about my actions and reactions, my thoughts and words to see if they negatively impact anyone, but particularly those who have been treated poorly in the past. I’m open to suggestions on other ways to help to heal the divides and to bring us closer to the dream of MLK. After all, his dream was to bring out the best in all of us, individually and together.
Roll on, together!