Black Lives Matter
15 Jun 2020
I’ve been wanting to write something about the protests for a couple of weeks now, and made plenty of false starts. I wanted to write a big thing about my thoughts on the situation, but I’m not sure that the movement really needs another priveledged white voice talking about how things ought to be. However, I do feel the need to say something, so here goes.
Black Lives Matter
It makes me sad that this even needs to be said in 2020. The fact that such an obvious statement can sound radical is evidence of the deep inequality at the foundation of our society. Something needs to be done.
I am thankful that people are willing to stand up for this, and it makes me happy to see that the people doing so are a diverse bunch. I wish there was less violence involved, but since most of that violence appears to be perpetrated by the police, I can hardly fault the protesters (who, it should also be noted, tried doing this peacefully and were ignored). I also wish that there were less property damage (looting) but then again, stores carry insurance for a reason and things can be replaced, people killed by the police cannot (not to mention that there are good arguments to be made about looting being the result of structural inequality anyway).
What is to be done?
I’m not sure. However, here are some ideas:
- Join the protests. Go out, show solidarity. Heck, even if you don’t agree with them, go out and talk to people (outside of your circle of friends) about it. Granted, we are in the middle of a pandemic, so some amount of caution makes sense. That being said, the fact that protests of this size are happening in the middle of a pandemic speaks to the seriousness of the issue.
- Contact your representatives. Voting isn’t enough and never has been (though you should still vote). If you don’t like what you see, you should be writing or calling your representatives at the local, state, and national level. It’s hard for them to represent you if you don’t tell them what you want.
- If your rep is already doing the things you want them to do, go ahead and contact them anyway, knowing that their constituents approve of their actions makes it easier to keep pushing for change.
- If you are certain that your rep won’t listen, contact them anyway. Even if all they do is ignore you, that takes up time and effort on their part and might eventually chip away at their certainty. If you call, please be kind to whoever answers the phone, they aren’t the one making the decisions (heck, they might even agree with you) and the world already has plenty of assholes, don’t be one of them.
- Do a little research:
- How much does your city spend on police? Here in Olympia, we spend about $20.5 Million per year for a population 52,000. That’s a lot of money and I have to wonder about what impact it might have if some of it were spent on things like mental health services or affordable housing.
- Another place to start is with Qualified Immunity. The idea that police shouldn’t be held accountable for violating people’s rights because they can’t be expected to know that things like stealing property or excessive use of force while on the job is repugnant. Police are acting as part of the state when they put on the uniform, and should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one. If an officer doesn’t know that something like theft is wrong, then they have no business being a police officer. Thankfully, a bill has been introduced that might help the situation.
- Why are police using tear gas on peaceful protesters, which is prohibited in warfare by the Geneva Convention? It seems like a bad idea, especially given that it appears to be especially dangerous in the midst of a respiratory infection pandemic.
- Finally, here is something that resonated with me when I first read it, and has helped to shape my thinking on race. Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is by John Scalzi.
I firmly believe that we will come out of this thing as a better, more equal, and more just society, but for that to happen we all need to be helping in whatever way we can. However hard this may be, the alternative is worse, and until we address the structural inequality that is endemic in our society, things will not improve.