Thursday, July 7, 2016

BLACK MAN'S BURDEN (Please Keep Filming)

The epidemic of justifiable homicide being perpetrated on black men by American police officers is still being uncovered on a daily basis here in our county.  It's being uncovered by the loved ones of the victims, the bystanders and the new media  (that's you and your smart phone).

Of course, curbing (nevertheless solving) the problem of excessive use of force and civil rights violations begins with admitting there is a problem in the first place.  There is one and it's a cultural rift which has never healed.  Being part of the "post-racial" generation, I was taught growing up as a white student in a predominantly white school how this was all behind us.  African Americans fought, they marched, they earned equal rights and the rest is history.  Well what's all this marching, protesting, sign-holding and rioting we see through our new vast variety of media outlets?  It's what never went away boiling up to the surface of public discourse- the effects of systemic racism.

Where does change start and when does this end?

If we believe The Andy Griffith Show, there was a time where police were civil servants- peace officers if you will.  Officers knew their neighborhoods, knew the neighbors and acted as representatives of their community.  From the same vein which war-profiteering thrives, companies who manufacture tools of conflict profit handsomely by selling their products to our police forces.  Today local municipalities are equipped for combat, not protection.  They have tasers, nets, tear gas, batons, handcuffs, pistols, automatic weapons, riot gear, cars, trucks and tanks.  Who are they at war with?  The people they are enlisted to protect?!  Unfortunately, yes.  

Change begins with how police officers view their jobs and roles as protectors.  Of course, not every cop is trigger happy and ready to go to war on a daily basis but far too many are.  The mindset needs to be shifted back to serving and protecting, not combating and arresting.  There is a reason America has the largest prison population in the world and the majority of inmates are men of color.  Systemic racism places minorities in high-crime areas through lack of opportunity.  The same racism causes police profiling and the effects are well documented.  The best we can do as the public is to continue to document and demand action toward change.

Societal progress often comes from public upheaval.  Our modern age has placed tools in our hands which forge a path to discussion.  The power of the social media is an unmatched force in the world.  Public consensus through the internet has toppled governments, changed laws, brought the wrongfully accused to acquittal and brought criminals to justice.  YOU are the new media.  YOU are social change. Progress can be slow in such a large system but the ox can only turn completely around once he begins to move.  The police and government tell us, "If you see something, say something."  Heed their advice and hold them accountable by their own suggestion.  Keep filming, keep taking pictures, keep sharing and keep the discussion going. If you weren't already, we'd all think we were still in the fantasy-land of post-racial America.  Remember, the first big step is accepting and admitting there is a problem.

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