Bring Balance to the Force

It was my honor to cover and photograph an energetic and dynamic Black Lives Matter rally and march in my hometown of Ada, Oklahoma earlier this month. This image didn't make the final cut because it would have make some of our readers very angry.
It was my honor to cover and photograph an energetic and dynamic Black Lives Matter rally and march in my hometown of Ada, Oklahoma earlier this month. This image didn’t make the final cut because it would have make some of our readers very angry.

At a Juneteenth celebration Saturday, I interviewed a few people about how Donald Trump’s handling of racial issues would affect how they will vote. They all said they were already going to vote against Trump, but there was no shortage of criticism of him.

After talking to one person who repeatedly called him a racist, I turned off my recorder and said to her, “He’s a sexist, too.”

Her response surprised me.

“Yes, but racism is our issue right now.”

A bit of discourse on the right and wrong of the current narrative.

  1. “The police should have just left George Floyd alone.” It’s important to note here that George Floyd was committing a crime when he was arrested, and the police were called to the scene by members of the public.
  2. “George Floyd deserved what he got because he had a long felony record.” This is never how criminal justice is supposed to work. Police aren’t judges.
  3. “George Floyd deserved what he got because he resisted arrest.” Killing a subject who is resisting arrest is a function of incompetent policing, not suspect behavior. If you and your fellow officers can’t contain a resisting subject without killing him, you shouldn’t be in the police business.
  4. Black Lives Matter vs All Lives Matter vs Blue Lives Matter. I saw a meme that clarified this for me recently. Saying that “all lives matter” in response to “black lives matter” is like asking the fire department to hose down all the houses on the block when only one of them is on fire. Black Lives Matter addresses a crisis unique to the black community.
  5. Cause of death: when investigators find drugs in the systems of black subjects in these situations, or that these people died from causes not related to police actions, it’s untrue, “because medical examiners and/or prosecutors are protecting the police.” This is a mish-mash of logical fallacies and wishful thinking, and is seldom asserted with evidence.
  6. Far too many of these cases involve people who encounter police while drunk or high, and while that’s not any kind of an excuse for police abuse, it is appalling. Do we not, as human beings of any race, owe it to ourselves to be strong, upright, healthy citizens? I know, though, that it is much harder when right and wrong isn’t always obvious when you live amidst poverty, abuse, neglect, and racism. I know I am asking a lot, but I am asking the right thing: love and respect thyself.
  7. Why “defund the police” won’t work: like it or not, the police have been protecting you every minute of every protest, and although they get out of hand sometimes, it mostly works. You can’t protect yourselves from armed robbers, drunk drivers, burglars, and a myriad of other criminals like you think you can. My response to this is rightfund the police.

So. One day it’s Black Lives Matter. One day it’s school shootings. One day it’s LGBTQ+ pride. 9/11. Animal rights. Climate change. Ebola. Poverty. Covid-19. Pollution. Overpopulation.

Every single-issue issue is temporary and destined to fail, because it disregards the wisest and calmest words we ever recited as children: “…and justice for all.” You will never succeed in building a better world until you realize that we all live in it.

When my sister, who lives in New Orleans, saw my Black Lives Matter coverage, she asked, "Doesn't Ada have any black people living in it?" The answer is yes, but not nearly as many as live in New Orleans. In any case, I thought our rally crossed racial lines and expressed unity.
When my sister, who lives in New Orleans, saw my Black Lives Matter coverage, she asked, “Doesn’t Ada have any black people living in it?” The answer is yes, but not nearly as many as live in New Orleans. In any case, I thought our rally crossed racial lines and expressed unity.

2 Comments

  1. I felt a lot of “Yes!” while reading this. Thanks for posting it, Richard.

    “He’s a sexist, too.” … “Yes, but racism is our issue right now.”

    On one hand, it always bugs me when people assume we can only tackle one issue at a time. Like, climate change hasn’t taken a break just because of the pandemic or the renewed focus on systemic racism. On the other hand, sometimes one issue gains more traction and it might be worth pushing that one issue a little harder, with fewer distractions, until concrete changes occur.

    (In DT’s case, there are a bundle of issues, including racism and sexism, but also incompetence, corruption, dishonesty, nepotism, and so on.)

    “…the police were called to the scene by members of the public.”

    This IS important to note. Neither the police nor the suspect instigated the contact — it was an employee at Cup Foods. (The store owner, Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, has since said his store employees will no longer call police for non-violent incidents.) It’s something I’ve had to think about over the past few years — and I eventually decided (four or five years ago) that I will no longer call the police, unless perhaps a violent crime has already occurred and I was a direct witness to it.

    “I saw a meme that clarified this for me recently.”

    Another one I saw recently said something like: “If ‘Black Lives Matter’ bothers you because it doesn’t say ALL lives, but ‘Blue Lives Matter’ doesn’t bother you, then your problem is with the word ‘Black’.” (I think it was a tweet, not a meme.)

    “You can’t protect yourselves from armed robbers, drunk drivers, burglars, and a myriad of other criminals like you think you can.”

    Do people really think they can? My self-confidence has never been that high. It does lead me to a question though: What level of “protection” do I truly believe police are providing? (And is my belief accurate?) I wonder whether police procedural TV shows have convinced us that a higher percentage of crimes are actually “solved” than in real life.

    “Doesn’t Ada have any black people living in it?”

    According to Wikipedia, Ada’s demographic makeup goes like this:
    73.8% White
    15.1% Native American
    5.8% two or more races
    3.5% Black
    2.9% Hispanic/Latino (of any race)
    0.8% Asian

  2. Defund the police is a bad name for an excellent idea. Community Justice works. Diverting arrestees from the criminal justice system to a community justice system will help reduce overcrowded jails and provide people with meaningful punishments that help them to make better life choices going forward.

    The police are dangerous, especially to people of color, inebriated people, and mentality ill people. They respond with deadly force when deadly force is not necessary. Research community justice and learn how successful it is in places where it has been implemented.

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