We’ve seen it already several times this week. A 13 year old in Columbus. A man with his hands up in Tulsa. A 43 year old man in Charlotte is dead as well. There have been too many instances in our country of black people, often unarmed or with their hands up, being killed by police officers who should have been able to handle the situation with the use of non-lethal force. These tragedies are the cornerstone concern of Black Lives Matter.
The Black Lives Matter organization should not be labeled as racists or cop-haters or a terrorist group. And people would be remiss if they responded to their rhetoric with a dismissive chorus of “All Lives Matter.” Black Lives Matter is not prefaced with the word “only”. Instead, we should regard it as saying “Black Lives Matter, too.” Like how saying “Save the rainforests” is not the same as saying “Screw all the other kinds of forests.” It’s not an exclusionary movement, it simply recognizes that black people are being unfairly targeted in numerous instances. In addition, the group focuses on a number of other causes, from public education to mass incarceration. As the president has said, “There is a specific problem that is happening in the African-American community that’s not happening in other communities. And that is a legitimate issue that we’ve got to address.”
There should no longer be any doubt that the president’s words ring true. Colin Kaepernick has tried to use his status to call attention to this problem. But people were much more concerned with his “disrespect” of our country for failing to stand for the national anthem. I’ll bet some of the people who thought he did this were the same people taking joy in the fact that Obama was insulted by the president of the Philippines a couple of weeks ago. The same ones who call him a Muslim, a terrorist, a foreigner and a whole slew of others. I’ll bet they aren’t mad about the fact that Mississippi’s state flag has the Confederate flag in the corner, or that the flag is often flown at state capitols and other government buildings in the South.
That a football player protesting racism is called unpatriotic by the same people who fight tooth and nail to defend the flying of the Confederate flag in Mississippi and other states. A flag that symbolizes slavery and rebellion against one’s country, a flag that is a stain upon American history, is defended by those who scorn another protesting the lasting influence of the ideas it represents in America.
Police brutality is something that we need to solve together, and people on either side pointing their fingers at the other side does not help. What we need are solutions, not blame. We need police officers and BLM activists interacting with and reaching out to each other, going to events and engaging in ways that builds up trust between the two communities. Most importantly, we need changes aimed at stopping these tragedies. Police officers perform a very difficult job and perform a tremendous service to the public. But because of the authority and power they possess, they also have to be held to a higher standard. It is important to monitor police officers, and remove those who are found to be abusing their power.
Trevor Noah has surmised the problem well. “If this carries on, the distrust that citizens have in the police will rise, the police will feel more and more threatened by the public that doesn’t trust them, and the cycle will only get worse.” We have to break the cycle and strengthen the bonds between police and citizens in this country. There are many proactive initiatives we can take, from increased community policing to training programs. The majority of police officers and BLM activists want to reconcile their differences and fix these problems. We cannot allow fear to continue to dictate the actions of either side. Most importantly, we need to reach a point where we no longer see any “sides” at all.
Jacob Kowalski is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.