I am white.
I don’t feel like you need to know that, but I feel like you will want to know that. And you should also know something else:
My life matters.
For some, this will bring a smile to your face. For others, this will cause you to see red. For everyone, it should mean something.
I was watching The Nightly Show earlier this week when host Larry Wilmore highlighted some of the discrepancies that exist when it comes to the #blacklivesmatter movement that rose up following a series of unjustified murders involving white cops and black citizens. In particular, Wilmore called out those behind the #alllivesmatter movement to stand up and be heard not just when white lives are taken but when all lives unjustly end before their time.
Wilmore is correct. We have an imbalance in this nation right now, and it needs to stop. We have a segment of our population being criticized for recognizing a problem and wanting a solution. We have another segment of our population feeling like there isn’t a problem and that any responses are an attempt to create divisiveness.
Distinguish patterns from isolated incidents
We are at a point that even the most uneducated and ignorant admit a problem exists. There are too many patterns of what seem to be unnecessary killings involving white cops and black citizens for us to continue burying our heads in the sand. Michael Brown in Ferguson. Ramarley Graham in New York City. Philando Castile in Falcon Heights. Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. And these are just the ones that have dominated the headlines of national media outlets. So many more exist that it is sickening even to think about.
But it is also not an example of the patterned killings that have been taking place, and it should not be used as a reason to avoid working on the heart of the original problem. An abnormal number of white cops are getting away with killing black citizens, and video evidence is consistently showing a lack of legitimate reasons for it to happen.
The problem starts with laws
As a society, we should be embarrassed. But also, maybe more than a little nervous. Should a black person driving alone have to worry about his or her life when they are pulled over for a routine traffic stop? More than likely, they might not have to. But we clearly have more than one rogue cop abusing their authority. We have a problem.
Sometimes, it’s those with the smallest badges — or a whiff thereof — who seem to think they get to decide who lives and who doesn’t, and Trayvon Martin paid for this mindset with his life. If George Zimmerman can get away with killing someone merely because he wore a hoodie in the wrong neighborhood, who else is getting to end a life based on a whim?
The problem here starts with laws that allow for power to rule over common sense. Our world doesn’t need people like George Zimmerman and Robert Bates walking the streets pretending to have authority they shouldn’t have. But when they are sometimes able to get away with reckless behavior that costs human lives, the problem is exacerbated.
But the problem doesn’t end with just “wannabe” cops, and that is what makes it worse. Trained law enforcement professionals are responsible for exceeding their authority, yet nothing changes.
The pattern needs to end
What we’ve seen as a response to last week’s tragedies often seems like a deflection of the real issues by pretending like Black Lives Matter is only an African-American reaction to a few isolated incidents.
For those of us who walk through life without prejudices, the ignorance of these issues can be tough to swallow. No white person can ever fully understand what it is like to be black and get pulled over by a white cop on a dark road with no witnesses. Even if 99 percent of the time it ends up being treated as a routine traffic stop, even one incident of unjust behavior by an agent of the law enforcement community creates a problem.
And we have viewed too many of these incidents to pretend like it isn’t a pattern of abuse that needs to end.
What happened in Dallas should not be an excuse to attack — either verbally or otherwise — those who have stood against the unlawful killings of black citizens by white cops. The mostly peaceful protests for murderous actions have not led to anything productive in terms of ending the senseless violence against black citizens, so it was almost predictable that something like what happened in Dallas was a possible next step.
Resist the violent nature of the issue
I have heard too many times that the Black Lives Matter movement is an attempt to divide the nation or to blame cops for what have been found in some cases to be legal and appropriate behavior. But we all know investigations and verdicts don’t always come down on the side of what is right. Laws were written by people, and those laws can be every bit as corrupt as some of the people who drafted them.
It is past time to recognize we have a problem. We can’t just sit back and allow more lives to be lost. Whether they are lives of people who were shown on video not resisting arrest or the lives of police officers who were merely attempting to keep the peace, we can’t give in to the violent nature of this issue.
Whether you are black or white, you have to take a stance that we will no longer tolerate this behavior. The hate has to go away. The prejudices need to stop. The killings have to be eliminated. Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter, and that means none of us gets to pretend one life has any less value than the other.
(Editor’s Note: Jeff Packham helped organize a campus-wide rally in support of Trayvon Martin during his tenure as the spokesman for Langston University.)