The events of the days following July 4th, 2016 have been very troubling for me as a political and social observer. Seeing not one, but two black men be the victim of officer involved shooting events, particularly when those men seemingly were neither actively resisting arrest or in noncompliance with the officer’s orders, is incredibly troubling. We have a clear systemic issue in this country when it comes to the arrest of people of color, particularly when that racial identity is Black.
According to multiple sources (Wikipedia), the percentage of Black men (4.7) are incarcerated is significantly higher than the same statistic for Hispanic men (1.8) and White men (0.7). Furthermore, blacks are disproportionately more likely to be arrested for violent crimes, when those figures are expressed as a percent of their total representation of the population. In 2014, the statistics were 6220 arrests per 100,000 black citizens versus 2,709 arrests per 100,000 white citizens in the United States. The disparity in these statistics is nothing compared to this next one however: In 2014 ALONE, the rate of deaths at the hands of police, according to KilledByPolice, was 2.14 out of every 1,000,000 for White Americans compared to 7.27 out of every Black Americans. What does all of this mean? Being Black in America means you are more likely to be arrested, imprisoned, or die at the hands of a police officer. That last one is a scary thought, but many researchers indicate that your chance of being struck by lightning is 1 in 3,000, so maybe that can provide a little perspective. Doesn’t make what happens on the streets of many cities in this country acceptable, however.
That goes double to retaliation at police forces. The idea of judging a group of people for the actions of the worst among them, and then choosing to implement a punishment outside of due process on those individuals, is, simply put, unreasonably Un-American. It is also counter to the point of this entire conversation. #BlackLivesMatter is not a movement of retaliation for the inexcusable deaths of Black Americans. BLM is about pushing the populace and the government to recognize that the statistics I shared above aren’t okay, and that we have to make changes in the way we approach race in the country. Addressing the core issues at play is the only way we can make things better. So where do we start?
Well, to quote Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So let’s try that for a little while. My hope in writing this is to shed some light on the realities of what is happening every day in America. We live in a time of unprecedented media coverage, of 24 hour news cycles and constant social media influence upon our understanding of world events. Statistically speaking, you are less likely to die now than at any other point in human history, but it feels like we are all under attack all of the time. That has to stop being the case before civil discourse can bring us back to seeing the peace we really have right now. We shouldn’t be shooting each other, no matter who gives us the gun. Being a police officer isn’t about power, it is about protection. Being Black shouldn’t mean you feel less of that protection.
I understand there is reasoned distrust there, and the system is unfairly balanced against the very individuals we need it to help. The reality is, however, until we can all get our collective heads back in the game and stop doing things like what happened in Baton Rogue, Minnesota, and Dallas, we aren’t moving forward. I implore everyone who reads this to take a step back and think through the numbers, the news, and your personal relationships. We are all better than this. “All men are created equal.” That phrase that defines us as Americans and that had to be drug forward by good intentions and a hope of a better life for Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians, and all other backgrounds, religions, races, and creeds. Let’s all work together to make sure that is more true today than at any other point in human history. But: Only Love can do That.