Today, Sunday December 15, is supposed to be a day of silence. Organizers are asking people to blacken their profile photos on Facebook and other social media and not post anythign for 24 hours to protest the recent deaths of Eric Garner in Staten Island, Mike Brown in Fergson, and a number of other young black men at the hands of police. Total media silence for a day which would cost advertisers in lost click through revenue. However I was raised in a Quaker grade school. The hardest thing to do was to stay silent for a minute before classes when all I wanted to do was scream. So yeah, I’m going to say/post something (though luckily in the Quakers, you are asked to be quiet until the spirit moves you to talk, so technically I’m following tradition).
As moments of silences are great, this is one time inour lives to be shouting from the rooftops. While still trying to wrap our heads around the non-indictments of two separate grand juries in two deaths, the cycle continues with the deaths of more unarmed Black men at the hands of law enforcement still averaging one every seven days. Some of the tensions are boiling over because of the already strained relationship of some of the overpoliced areas to the police, as well as outside agitators—including undercover cops. The release of details on the CIA’s so called “enhanced interrogation techniques” brings us to an argument about our human values that should never be partisan but has become so. And the Congress and President are about to pass a “compromise” budget that allows big banks to go back to the irresponsible practices that nearly melted our own financial system with a sense of urgency. How can we be silent when we are being primed for the slaughter?
We need accountability. In the West in the 1860s, if a Marshal shot and/or killed someone on their watch, they would have to stand trial and prove their justification. I hate to think we have to rise to the challenge of the late 1800s, but if justice is so uneven these days, we may have to. Short term, we need to have federal indictments of the two officers in the most visible non-indictments happen; it’s the only way to prove to the people that they are taking the people seriously. We also need to start looking at new procedures with police involved deaths: investigations handled by a state police investigators or at least investigators not involved with the precinct being investigated; appointing special prosecutors instead of local DA’s; no paid leave for police under police involved officer deaths. These are simple fixes that can help alleviate the tension short term so we can focus on the major problems.
Long term solutions are not so simple. There is no one law that can solve all the structural problems that are causing the racism inherent in the system. It will take time and it is the fight of this generation. I am happy to see people in such large numbers mobilizing against real injustice. With the rallies soon after the Eric Garner non-indictment and the marches in DC and New York this past Saturday, it feels like we are at the point of a new civil rights movement. We helped push outright racism underground (more or less) in the 60s, but we never were truly able to fix the structural and institutional effects and defects of racism. Now we seem poised to take that on. It’s not just death and justice we are dealing with. It’s everything Occupy stood for AND the reform of the justice system all rolled into one. It seems as though the people have been attacked on all fronts and more hits are coming; but now people are ready to fight back.
And it won’t only be solved with people in the streets. The civil rights era worked its way towards the Voting Rights act as the legal capstone for the fight. One law or set of laws won’t fix this. It is trying to get back to an America we were promised but was never materialized (unless you’re a landowning white male over 21). In this time of marches and stopping traffic, we need to start to focus on what the society we want to live in looks like. We need to be able to encompass BOTH “BlackLivesMatter” AND “Justice4All” and move forward towards that goal. I’m not sure what that looks like at the moment but I hope the leaders of this current movement are thinking about that.