Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Peace, Rhetoric, and Circling the Wagons

Just to be clear: If you can't criticize the police you live in what is called an authoritarian police state. Think East Germany during the Cold War. I'm pretty sure that people offering a blanket defense of police at this time don't want that. That's not their motivation. By the same token, even those associated with Black Lives Matter spouting the most incendiary rhetoric don't actually want police to be killed. But the more extreme factions from each "side" clearly contribute to a polarized atmosphere that won't get us closer to solutions.

Peaceful protest and responsible policing are two very important pillars of successful, flourishing civil society. Ironically, both were very much in evidence in Dallas last week. Apparently Dallas has been a real leader in moving toward the community policing model that places police and citizens on the same side. And the BLM people were fully nonviolent during the protest.

So moving forward, I think BLM should loudly and unequivocally commit to nonviolence and a sense of common cause with responsible law enforcement. Embrace the idea that Black and Blue Lives Matter. And the law enforcement community needs to stop circling the wagons and begin to take action to ensure that there are consequences for the reckless and violent, and, yes, racist, police officers out there. And there are just too many of them. They need to be removed from service. As I write this, a little voice in my head says, ain't gonna happen. Well, it needs to.

Note: I'll follow up with more nuance. But I just wanted to start making sense of my thoughts around this.

UPDATE: 7-13-16

Black Live Matter has vigorously rejected the framing of All Lives Matter. They say that their movement is specifically premised on the idea that black people are undervalued in relation to white people in the US, and that, in fact, their lives are considered by society, either consciously or unconsciously, to be worth less than the lives of whites. I'd have to agree that there's a lot of truth there. Further, they claim that black people are intentionally being persecuted by the white American power structure, as an attempt to keep them in their place. I'm less sure about that.

UPDATE: 7-14-16

Actually the chances of BLM getting on board with my suggestions are pretty slim. Why? Well, I don't know if you read the liberal(ish) thought leader publications like the Atlantic or the New York Times, but the go to guy for all things race for this crowd is Ta Nehisi Coates, who just won the National Book Award for his recent book, Between the World and Me. He is also the main "public intellectual" providing the intellectual framework for BLM. This has always troubled me since Coates is frankly contemptuous of Martin Luther King and related figures. In his post-Dallas piece now up at the Atlantic he ridicules what he calls "sanctimonious calls for nonviolence." His argument is that such calls won't stop police violence from happening and as long as that is the case we can expect retaliatory, chickens-coming-home-to-roost violence. Considering he is a MacArthur Genius Grant winner, this is pretty obtuse. One has to wonder if he is actually more bitter than brilliant. The point is that if Black Lives Matter doesn't commit to nonviolence they have no way to distinguish themselves from the violent extremists who latch on to the more incendiary rhetoric and proceed to kill people. The cause thus loses the legitimacy necessary to challenge entrenched power structures. Nonviolence is not sanctimonious but immensely practical. And morally correct I should add, despite the derision of Coates.

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