Black Lives matter
This is about so much more than George Floyd. George was not the first Black American to be killed by the police. He wasn’t the first to have his murder recorded on film while bystanders pleaded for his life. He wasn’t the first to have a viral video force an investigation into his death. The Black Lives Matter movement isn't new, it was founded in 2013. For years peaceful protests have played out in the streets and on the sidelines of the football field, but nothing has changed. The murderers of unarmed Black Americans are still not held accountable. When the police, those sworn to protect and serve our communities, instead cause pain, suffering and death, they must be held accountable.
WHY NOT "ALL LIVES MATTER"?
Yes, of course each life is precious, but the statement "All Lives Matter" is offensive. Why is that? I've seen this explained in so many ways that I'm going to repeat some of the most obvious for you here.
- When the Boston Marathon was bombed, and our city said "Boston Strong" did you say "All Cities are Strong"?
- When there is a Breast Cancer Walk do you protest and say "All Cancers Matter"?
- When someone says "Save the Rainforest", do you say "Save All Forests"?
The point is that Black Lives Matter calls attention to the problem that our society has with people of color dying at a disproportionally high rate when in police custody. The movement isn't saying that other lives don't matter, it's drawing attention to the injustices faced by Black people and why that should matter to all of us.
WHY NOT "BLUE LIVES MATTER"?
This isn't about the good cops. This isn't about those who don't haven't had a pile of brutality and excessive force complaints filed against them. We need good cops to maintain order in our society. Of course the lives of police matter, but the police aren't being murdered at alarming rates.
- When someone says "#MeToo", do you say "Some Men Are Good"?
- When its Nurses week, do you say "Doctors Matter Too"?
- When it's Gay Pride, do you say "Straight Pride"?
This shouldn't be about the police vs. the Black community. The police have sworn to protect all citizens, so you should be able to be a police officer, or a regular civilian, and see that these injustices aren't fair.
THIS ISN'T POLITICAL
Racism, and police brutally shouldn't be political. We shouldn't have one party denouncing racism and one party blaming the victim. This is about human rights. Civil rights. Equal rights. The country is politically divided, yet there are protests in all 50 states against racism and police brutally. This shouldn't be about red vs blue or democrats vs republicans. This is about accountability and justice for all. There's a big reason that Black Lives Matter has become the largest civil rights movement in the world, and it isn't about politics.
I know many people on the conservative right falsely believe that this is a liberal agenda item. If you're religious and pro-life, why not pro-Black-lives? If you're Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, then remember Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed weren't white, they was born in the Middle East. If you read the Bible, check out The Parable of the Lost Sheep, where a shepherd leaves 99 of his sheep to search for the 1 that needs him most. It's not because the 99 other sheep don't matter, it's because one needs his attention and help. The Bible also says that Jesus proclaimed freedom to the oppressed. So why not now? To my knowledge, silence in the face of injustice isn't encouraged in any religion.
WHAT HAS RIOTING EVER ACCOMPLISHED?
The Boston Tea Party - a riot we're all proud of. Rioting as a form of political dissent has been around longer than the United States has been a country. In 1773, colonists rioted and destroyed tea in protest of British occupation, taxes, and The Boston Massacre (the first person to be killed at the Boston Massacre was an unarmed Black man, Crispus Attucks). The tensions that erupted from The Boston Massacre, and Boston Tea Party, among other events fueled the American Revolution. Without rioting, we'd all still be under British colonial rule.
During the BLM Protest, the Military Police were stationed on the very spot where the occupying British troops opened fire during the Boston Massacre. Oh the irony.
Bloody Sunday - In 1965 protesters in Alabama marched from Selma to Montgomery because a Black civil rights activist, Jimmie Lee Jackson, had been killed by a white police officer. The Alabama governor was against desegregation and the police blocked the procession, beating and teargassing the protestors who continued forward. Months later, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
MLK's Assassination - In 1968 Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights activist and Nobel peace prize recipient, was assassinated in Tennessee. Riots and looting ensued in more than 100 cities around the country. Seven days later the Fair Housing Act was made law.
Stonewall Riots - In 1969 police raided a gay club in New York, the Stonewall Inn. At that time, it was illegal to be gay, and the LGBT+ community had been continually targeted by the police. This time, the oppressed fought back. The rioting led to the formation of many gay rights organizations. The following year, America's first ever gay pride parade marched through New York, beginning at the Stonewall Inn. In 2015, the Supreme Court finally ruled that gay marriage is legal in all 50 states.
WHEN DO AMERICANS RIOT FOR NO REASON?
- 1984 - Detroit Tigers World Series win
- 1990 - Detroit Pistons NBA Championship win
- 1991 - Chicago Bulls NBA Championship win
- 1992 - Chicago Bulls NBA Championship win
- 1993 - Chicago Bulls NBA Championship win
- 1996 - Denver Avalanche Stanley Cup win
- 1998 - Denver Broncos Super Bowl win
- 1999 - Denver Broncos Super Bowl win
- 2001 - Denver Avalanche Stanley Cup win
- 2004 - Boston Red Sox World Series win
- 2007 - Boston Red Sox World Series win
- 2013 - Boston Red Sox World Series win
- 2018 - Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl win
- and the list goes on....
WHAT ABOUT THE LOOTING?
When years of peaceful protests haven't changed anything, what other options are there? The BLM movement has been peacefully protesting since 2013. Colin Kaepernick has been blacklisted from the NFL since 2016 for his peaceful protest.
Am I encouraging violence? No, of course not. But I understand how we got here. As a small business owner, I am of course sympathetic to people whose small businesses have suffered another blow during this pandemic. But if I have a choice between my business getting looted and my friends getting killed, I'd let you burn down my business every single time.
RESPECTING THE AMERICAN FLAG
In 2016 NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick sat down during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. An ex-Green Beret, Nate Boyer, wrote an open letter to Kaepernick praising him for having the courage to stand up against racism and explaining his reason for joining the military was to "free the oppressed". He also said it would have hurt his feelings had one of his teammates not stood for the national anthem due to his service as a veteran. After the open letter went viral, Kaepernick reached out to Boyer to talk in person. During that meeting, Boyer recommended that Kaepernick take a knee during the anthem as a more respectful option than sitting it out. Boyer's thinking was that kneeling isn't disrespectful - people kneel when they pray or propose marriage, and soldiers kneel in front graves to pay respect to fallen comrades. After that meeting Kaepernick began taking a knee during the anthem to shine a light on the inequalities and injustices that black Americans face.
What is disrespectful?
According to 4 U.S. Code §8. Respect for the flag,
- The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery.
- The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.
- No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.
With that in mind, I don't know any American individual or company who isn't guilty of disrespecting the flag. I'm talking about all those red white and blue themed 4th of July and Memorial Day items: bathing suits, paper plates, t-shirts, and advertising campaigns. Yes, I'm guilty of those things too. I've got American flag earrings and I wear them even though I know its disrespectful to the flag. Notice that the kneeling isn't listed as an act of disrespect.
WHEN WILL THE PROTESTS STOP?
The police who killed George Floyd have been arrested and charged. But the protests continue. Why? American has a problem with police brutality.
- In 2019, there were only 27 days that the police did not kill someone.
- In 99% of killings by police from 2013-2019, the officers were not charged with any crime.
- Black people are 3 times more likely to be killed by police even though they are 1.3 times less likely to be armed.
- In 2019, 24% of people killed by police were Black, even though they are only 13% of the population.
The NAACP is asking for two things. One is for the United Nations to classify the mistreatment of Black people in the U.S. as a human rights violation by police. The second is for federal police reform with the following:
- A ban on the use of knee holds and chokeholds as an acceptable practice for police officers.
- The Use of Force Continuum for any police department in the country must ensure that there are at least 6 levels of steps, with clear rules on escalation.
- Each State’s Open Records Act must ensure officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories are not shielded from the public.
- Recertification credentials may be denied for police officers if determined that their use of deadly force was unwarranted by federal guidelines.
- Implementation of Citizen’s Review Boards in municipalities to hold police departments accountable and build public confidence.
WHAT IS QUALIFIED IMMUNITY?
Qualified immunity is a federal law developed by the Supreme Court that shields government officials from being held personally liable for discretionary actions. Why? The idea behind it was that government officials should only be sued when they violate a "clearly established" constitutional right, so they aren't subject to frivolous lawsuits. However, most courts have dismissed police brutality lawsuits because there is no prior court ruling with nearly identical facts. And when one lawsuit gets dismissed, that means the next lawsuit is also likely to get dismissed because there is still no "clearly established" court ruling that prohibited police misconduct. Because of that, the cycle of no police accountability just continues.
"BUT I'M NOT A RACIST!"
Good! Now what? Just being not racist doesn't change anything. Doing nothing means nothing will change. So how can you help the Black community? First, education. When I started learning about White Fragility a few years back it opened my eyes a lot. Yes, racism can be uncomfortable to talk about, and it's hard to examine yourself and see how you fit in. No one is perfect, not even me or you. But opening your eyes to micro-aggressions will make you less likely to make those mistakes again. If you're not learning anything about yourself through this process, you're not helping to create positive change.
This isn't a one time thing either. For me personally, I grew up learning that everyone is equal and should be treated that way. But that black and white version of things led me to fall into the trap that racism didn't happen anymore, especially not here in the North. I assumed that because I have friends from all different backgrounds and ethnicities that I couldn't be part of the problem. I assumed that because Boston is such a liberal city those issues didn't exist here. But the more I educated myself, the more I realized just how very wrong I was. It's a growing process for those of us with white privilege to examine ourselves and what we need to do to fix this very, very broken societal structure.