Experience as a policeman in Scranton, PA and in upstate New York taught me that the majority of our citizens understand that an unchecked local police department can be a threat rather than a friend, especially to minorities. We, the people, must demand justice and equality. Black Lives Matter (BLM) grew out of this demand for other Americans to see people of color as equals. It has taken far too long for America’s promise to be realized.
The dominant white culture keeps changing; in the middle of the last century, it was WASP, White Anglo-Saxon mainline Protestants. Then the culture slowly evolved to include Catholics, Jews and Evangelicals while still maintaining white dominance. Systemic racism has corrupted the telling of black history and allowed heroes to be denied or appropriated, accomplishments to be hidden, and failures exaggerated. Unlike the Irish, Italians, and Jews who could assimilate because they were white. Blacks as a group could not. Following the end of segregation and laws banning interracial marriage in 1967, serious racial progress came but slowly and then the great recession struck.
Growing inequality embittered whites, Blacks, and other Americans alike. As a former police officer and a retired military officer, I saw people in the worst moments of their lives. They do not fight. They help each other. Only later when basic needs are met do the resentments and petty arguments begin to build. People are basically good and spring-loaded to help each other. This country failed to address its growing inequality. Trump recognized and fed on this increasing bitterness and anger and rode an embittered white minority right into the White House. Trump never stopped stoking the flames of anger that now consume him.
Ironically, Covid-19 has taught us a few things. The pandemic currently raging throughout the United States produced a new breed of hero, the essential worker. Not just healthcare workers and emergency responders but warehouse workers, clerks, shoppers and drivers. These generally underpaid and unrecognized workers, many of whom are minorities, saved the day during lock down and the pandemic response. White America came face to face with the often-unrecognized people in their lives and recognized them as fellow humans.
When Black and other Americans took a knee to protest police murders of Black people, Trump’s white people were outraged. When Black and other Americans stood up together in the streets to protest the senseless killings of black Americans, white people like Trump were outraged. Now, white people are telling Black people to fix their own problems and neighborhoods. They cannot because bad cops need to be reckoned with. Bad police departments and cops who over-police or prey upon minority neighborhoods create the breeding ground necessary for criminals and gangs to thrive. The police are not seen as protectors but as enemies.
This is why lines of mothers, veterans, healthcare workers and young people of all colors, genders and creeds stand in the street united against bad policing. The problem is not a ‘Black’ problem; it is an American problem. I am proud to kneel or stand with my fellow Americans to make America stronger and better for all citizens.