While thousands have been in the streets with protests in all 50 states and some 18 countries, declarations that the United States is on the cusp of major change are premature. That might not be the popular thing to say, but it’s true. White demonstrators in the streets don’t guarantee change has arrived nor the beginning of a new era.
America’s house is on fire. In the midst of a house fire, everybody in the house grabs a bucket, even if they hate the landlord. Folks next door grab buckets, whether they love their neighbors or not. They don’t want and can’t afford for the fire to spread to their homes and threaten their lives.
This may be a moment when Whites are more sympathetic, or growing more sensitive, to the family of George Floyd, his death and the demand for justice in his case. That doesn’t mean, however, that all Blacks and Whites agree on what the underlying problem is and how to resolve it. Among many Trump supporters and Republicans, the decision has been made that the death of Mr. Floyd while in custody of Minneapolis police was a crime. They say ex-cop Derek Chauvin, who faces second-degree murder charges and second-degree manslaughter charges after kneeling on the Black man’s neck for almost nine minutes, and the other three cops on the scene, who are charged with complicity in the death, should be prosecuted and convicted.
But they don’t believe systemic racism exists; they don’t believe racism is a widespread problem and they don’t believe racism in police departments is a problem.
Democrats worry when they hear talk of abolishing the Minneapolis police department or defunding police. Despite the uproar and so-called outrage, they fear the liar-in-chief will be able to appeal to Whites–or rather give Whites an excuse–to vote for him. It’s a simple matter of playing to White fears that there will be no cops and the natives will run wild. In truth, different police forces have been abolished over the years. Such departments were in such bad shape that local leaders gave up on any pretense that they could be reformed. Those departments were disbanded and either county police or county sheriffs took charge of law enforcement. Police were not just removed from the streets. Minneapolis is likely looking at that kind of approach and a new model that places a different emphasis on solving social problems and keeping people safe.
Defunding police means trying to find better ways to solve problems by taking money from billion-dollar police budgets and spending that money to resolve social problems to ease the need for cops to intervene. Right now departments have been military machines with high powered weapons, little or no accountability and little respect for the people they serve.
In fact, police are not public servants in Black neighborhoods; they are an occupying force. Their role is to keep Black, Brown and indigenous people in their place. That’s why you don’t see these abusive and deadly acts occurring across the board. It’s bigger than calls for restoring trust, conversations and fake attempts at so-called community policing. Words and symbolic gestures aren’t enough.
What is needed is justice and the prosecution and conviction of officers who abuse their powers and who kill people, but where are the politicians who will say that?
A bill put forward June 8 by the Congressional Black Caucus will be the first sign of how much change America really wants and how much change will be supported. If the bill flies through both Houses of Congress with all deliberate speed, perhaps there is a chance something new can happen. But that’s not going to happen. While the Democrat-controlled House may pass the bill quickly, the Republican-controlled Senate will not. Then negotiations could begin and we will see how strong a “compromise” bill can be–if they can find a compromise. Don’t hold your breath.
Polls are showing race relations are top concerns among Americans. All it took was watching the life leave a man’s body while citizens begged Off. Chauvin to take his knee off of Mr. Floyd’s neck. The 46-year-old Black male pleaded for his mother, begged for a chance to breathe and nothing happened. Then came thousands of demonstrators and millions of dollars in property damage and destruction across the country. Police killing, maiming, beating and abuse of U.S. citizens followed–even as protestors were decrying police brutality. Next came global protests against the United States with Russia, China, Iran and other nations condemning America’s wrong and her hypocrisy.
That’s a lot for anyone to withstand, including White people. They don’t want to see themselves as monsters and some may actually truly want change.
But hoping for change, praying for change, marching for change and getting change aren’t the same thing. Change has not come yet. We will soon see if the demand for change is real or the visceral reaction of an embarrassed, beleaguered, Covid-19 weary, divided nation that simply wants a break.
But consider this: In Buffalo, N.Y., an entire emergency response unit resigned when two cops were suspended after a 75-year-old White male was shoved to the ground by heavily armed cops. Martin Gugino fell quickly when shoved, bleeding from his head. The entire unit resigned but the cops kept their jobs.
Officers Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski were charged with one count each of second-degree assault. They pleaded not guilty. The officers were given a virtual arraignment at a Buffalo courthouse and released on their own recognizance. They are to return to court July 20 for a felony hearing.
But, in a show of force, hundreds of “law enforcement and firefighters gathered outside the building and shielded the two officers from news crews with an umbrella and a sheet as they entered from a holding area. After the officers had been charged, the crowd cheered loudly as they exited the courthouse before dispersing,” according to the Independent, a UK-based newspaper.
Is that change or is it the same old boys-in-blue gang mentality that has helped push the country to the edge of a pit of fire?