Monday, July 27, 2015

"If elected . . . ." (The Election 2016 and #BlackLivesMatter Nexus)

Seal, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
There is a long-running campaign in Chicago to get civilian control over the police, and I have written about it frequently on this blog. (See, for instance, Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"? )

In association with this campaign, there have been several calls for intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice in Chicago over police abuse. (See "Group Demands Federal Investigation Into Police Review Authority")

Of course, everyone in the country is aware of the call for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the death of Sandra Bland. (See "Sen. Durbin calls for federal investigation into death of Sandra Bland")

Several weeks ago, reflecting on the in-full-swing 2016 presidential election, I said that one of the two issues candidates would need to address successfully is the #BlackLivesMatter movement. (See What Will Dominate Election 2016? (ANSWER: ISIS and #BlackLivesMatter) )

It is becoming clear that it will be necessary for a serious presidential candidate to be able to put forward a plan about how the federal government can intervene in police departments nationally and stop the killings.

In other words, platitudes about some kind of "national conversation on race" won't cut it.

*     *     *

Between the World and Me
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A challenge of the anti-racism work that we all need to be a part of is to make progress on something specific, while at the same time recognizing that the extent of systemic racism in this country -- institution after institution after institution -- is nearly impossible to comprehend, much less surmount.

I'm reminded of the "pebble, rock, boulder, mountain" metaphor used in meeting facilitation. The idea is to not get sidetracked by pebbles, nor be immobilized by mountains, but instead focus on how to move the rocks (and even an occasional boulder).

I have been reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and I was struck by this statement:

At this moment the phrase "police reform" has come into vogue, and the actions of our publicly appointed guardians have attracted attention presidential and pedestrian. You may have heard the talk of diversity, sensitivity training,and body cameras. These are all fine and applicable, but they understate the task and allow the citizens of this country to pretend that there is real distance between their own attitudes and those of the ones appointed to protect them. (Between the World and Me, p. 78)

In other words, it's not just about one bad cop -- or a hundred, or a thousand ("pebbles"); or even the practices of police departments and municipalities ("rocks"); or even the entire institution of law enforcement (a "boulder").

The big argument in the book is about what constitutes the "mountain."

I encourage everyone to read Between the World and Me and decide for themselves.

*     *     *

I think everyone agrees that it's not just enough to go after the "one bad cops" of the world. (Though there do have to be prosecutions.)

The "rocks" -- training, transparency, and dare I say disarming the police? -- are necessary components but not sufficient.

We can't imagine that anti-racism work is just about specific police officers or even specific departments. The "mountain" is much bigger than that.

The "boulders" are institutions of racist law enforcement that need to be brought to heel in real time. It's a task worthy of a society-wide, national, federal effort. And it's top priority.

No leader can ignore this reality . . . .


Speak, write, call to
to your candidate of choice:
"What will your administration
do to stop killings by police?"

Related posts

It will be the 2016 presidential election that will provide the main form of entertainment and distraction to the U.S. populace between now an the end of next year. An enormous amount of political fluff will fill our lives -- pushing aside, I suppose, vast amounts of sports fluff and shopping fluff and celebrity fluff and -- well, you get the point.

(See What Will Dominate Election 2016? (ANSWER: ISIS and #BlackLivesMatter) )

A campaign exists to bring about a democratically-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) in Chicago. The campaign would involve the people in electing the watchers of the police, and put the ultimate control of (and responsibility for) the police in the hands of the citizens of Chicago.

(See Does a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) need to be part of a "new plan of Chicago"? )

Cook County Jail is the perfect example of the nationwide injustice that Michelle Alexander described in her groundbreaking book, The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration, focused principally one people of color, in which "crimes" (often related to drug possession or other low-level offenses) become the mechanism for entrapping people in a cycle of incarceration that is brutalizing and often begins a downward spiral of lifetime discrimination.

(See Free Them All )

Related links

Michael Eric Dyson wrote in his essay, "President Obama’s Racial Renaissance" in The New York Times, August 2, 2015:

We need a new Kerner Commission report that is updated for our day, paying special attention to how black people are viciously targeted by unethical police practices. It’s true that calling for a commission might not seem like the most systematic fix. But a serious investment in assessing the state of inequality and systemic racism in America — numbers behind the trends the president spoke about when he eloquently eulogized the slain Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney in Charleston, S.C., in June — will show us clearly what work is left. And it will be harder to ignore, less ephemeral than mourning or protests.