Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An Open Letter To: Women of Black Lives Matter, Women of Blue Lives Matter



Dear Women of Black Lives Matter and Women of Blue Lives Matter,

I started to write this article chalk full of statistics from both the Black Lives Matter camp and the Blue Lives Matter camp to facilitate a productive conversation. It's all I've been reading about since the shooting of Alton Sterling, the shooting of Philando Castile, and the shooting of 5 police officers in Dallas last week. I've been truly heartbroken for this country. As I started compiling links, facts, and each camp's counterarguments, I came to a jarring realization on speaking with a close friend about what I was going to write. I can share every statistic out there with you, but it would serve no real constructive purpose. We've all probably seen the same information sprayed across our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, and we find ourselves going back to the trove to arm ourselves with the next counterargument. 

The bottom line is that the vast majority of us don't have the answers as to why these things happen on a microlevel - only the people who live and serve in these communities can answer that question. We all have some link to these movements in one way or another that sways us to feel a particular way; however, most of us are missing extremely important context about those communities and what's happening within them, and yet we are choosing to serve as the judge and jury when we really just don't know. We can't continue to extrapolate events like these into larger conclusions without a specific understanding of that community's context and examining if there truly are specific patterns.

Is there a history of harassment within that particular police department? Is that police department under a duty to de-escalate and a duty to prevent lethal force? Are officers' bonuses tied to number of arrests they bring in per month? Are there quotas for arrests? Is there arms-length and adequate oversight of the police department? Have all active officers gone through adequate temperament and psychological screening processes? Is there an increasing rate of gang activity or violent crimes in those communities? Are stop-and-frisk policies in place in that community that have been shown to erode trust? What about homicide rates - is there an increasing trend? Is there a particular location in those communities that is known for extreme violence? Does the police department reflect the racial consistency of the communities they serve? How involved are community members in their own neighborhoods? Have the officers been adequately trained to de-escalate? Do the officers have the equipment necessary to adequately protect themselves? What is the range of equipment they carry and protective gear worn? Is the police department appropriately assigning officers to particular trouble calls (i.e. Does the department pair experienced officers with a firm and steady hand with the most statistically significant crime areas?)? Is the department requiring officers to have immovable body cameras and their vehicles to carry dashcams? How much feedback does the police department garner and incorporate from the local community? How much, if any, racial bias training is required by the department? What has the historical relationship been like between the police department and the black communities they serve? Does the department institute community outreach programs? Are the police departments severely underfunded or understaffed?

I don't have answers. I only have a lot of questions. Questions that I, nor any one of your friends on social media, can answer.

Does that mean nothing should be done? No. Something needs to be done so both the police officers and the black communities in this country both feel safe and respected. Both "sides" of this issue have very valid concerns. Seven men died. They will never come back. They will never cry or laugh or feel joy or hug their children again. All of these people had loved ones in their lives who are now sorely hurting and rightfully angry. Why are they angry?

Because we have a systemic problem in this country that is being ignored. That problem is called distrust. 

That pervasive distrust between police departments and black communities is continuously being bolstered by general malaise and apathy on the part of the public to see the intersection of racism, police brutality, violent crime, personal responsibility, and community involvement as a public health crisis. If it's not in our eyeline, after the initial outrage, we - as a general public - forget, move on, become distracted by fucking Pokemon Go. That's the attention span of the American public, and the media trades on our short attention span for ratings. And so, tangible change in these communities - both the police officers and community members - are swept aside. They go unaddressed and continue to fester under the surface until the next shooting. The public needs to collectively give a damn. We need to join arms and insist that this is an issue that we all want addressed for the safety of black community members and the safety of the officers who protect us. Like, now. 

Women-Of-Both-Movements, let's be really honest with ourselves: Consistent denial and refusal to acknowledge the very real concerns of BOTH the police departments and the black communities is a non-starter. Just because you don't see it in your world, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I'm sure we can all relate to feeling unheard. We have to affirm others' fears if we are to move forward. And that's where you come in...

If you've been following both movements over the last two weeks as I have, something is strikingly different than what's been seen before - on social media, on protest lines, in our media: Women are the visible leaders on the front lines of both movements. You have been using your voices to speak to the injustices the men in your lives face every day. You have been fearless. You have been lionesses. As well you should be. And you have the nation's attention.

Women-Of-Both, what you do with that attention has the power to change the course of history. I'd like to offer one simple suggestion, if I may: Invite people in. This is not "us vs. them." This is "us vs. the problem." Women are notorious for being the most empathetic creatures on Earth. Now is the time to use it to find the solutions we all so desperately seek.

Blue Lives Matters supporters, please make sure that black community members and Black Lives Matters folks have a place at the proverbial policy table... and hear them. Promote shared goals and common solutions. Institute policies that take their concerns into consideration. Be accountable and hold your own people accountable. Black Lives Matters supporters, when a place at the table is offered, take it. Then show up, every day. Keep your voice and observations in the mix always. When Blue Lives matters folks express their concerns, don't disregard... hear them. Promote shared goals and common solutions. When change is made for the better, acknowledge that progress. Be accountable and hold your people accountable.

We have been, shamefully, short on trust and long on blame for far longer than any of us care to admit. It endangers us all. You have the power to change that. It starts with you.

Women, United, Not Divided.

3 comments:

  1. And now to include the lives of yet 3 more slain officers. I had some serious doubt almost 18 years ago today as to whether I wanted to bring a child into this cruel and injust world. While I am blessed with a beautiful child, I can't help but fear what he will have to endure throughout his adulthood. Praying all the while that he lives to see old age. It is both sad and disheartening to see how we have once again been segregated due to hate, greed and believing all that the media and politicians are feeding us. Educate yourselves to the real problems that are consuming our everyday lives. Life is a precious thing to be shared with love, laughter and memories. Be kind to one another...spread love, not hate!

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  2. Thanks so much for the comments and for reading! We are glad to have you with us!

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