Photo credit: Alex Grant via SI.com
Fix the Broken System, even if We Are the Broken System
Post contributed by Kasie Whitener and James Marsh
The right to peaceful protest is one we have long protected and exercised in this nation. Protests against police brutality have occurred repeatedly over the last decade with new incidents fueling the outrage. In South Carolina, daytime demonstrations were peaceful. Columbia saw a couple thousand peaceful marchers; Charleston had a prayerful community atmosphere; Camden including officers walking with demonstrators.
Then night came and the riots and looting began. Unrest is not usual for Charleston. In the wake of racial violence, specifically the killing of the Emmanuel 9 and Walter Scott, no riots or looting occurred. Instead, a loving, compassionate, and peaceful protest took place, a unifying event, where we were all included. Even if we believe the rioters were not from Charleston, there are people in the street who have no respect for others. Some of them wear badges.
Riots are the language of the unheard (Martin Luther King, Jr.).
There have been some beautiful moments. Such as Genesee County (MI) Sheriff Chris Swanson taking off his gear and walking with the protestors. The African American men in Louisville, KY forming a human wall in front of the police officer who had been separated from his unit. Then other police kneeling to have prayers with protestors.
This is how we listen. How we show our humanity. How we stand in solidarity and admit that the system is broken, but we, as people, are not. In Charleston, there were so many citizens out on Sunday morning to help clean up and board up the businesses that had been damaged the night before. Compassion and community are the hope for our future.
Right now, systemic racism is real.
The system is policies and processes organized by people who are ingrained to accept the advantages they have and dismiss the inconvenience of injustice. Our biases, our quiet racism, the separation we allow, the two Americas that persist, that’s the system we created.
George Floyd was murdered by an officer of the law acting in the line of duty. This nation must change. We can create a more just legal system.
First, we must police the police. Every single officer should realize they are not above the law. The citizens they protect and serve are valuable and deserving of respect. If an officer harms, assaults, or kills someone s/he will have the same accountability as any other citizen committing the crime.
Second, bad cops, those who habitually abuse their authority and treat citizens with disdain and aggression, need to be terminated and never allowed back into law enforcement.
Third, any investigation into law enforcement misconduct needs to be done by an unbiased 3rd party independent agency with transparency. Not by the police or any other government agency.
Police leadership must set the example. Officer training should focus on de-escalating hostile situations. Speech, actions, and habits that sustain racism will not be tolerated. Officers should not be allowed to disable body cams. Video holds both the police and the citizens they encounter accountable for a peaceful outcome.
Hear their voices. Make the changes.
For too long we have ignored the reality that our society is not equal, our rights are not shared. And empathy is not enough. Prayers are not enough.
We can make a better future for every black child if we protect them as if they were our own. We must meet raised voices with a willingness to listen and learn and change. Meet raised fists with a willingness to defend ourselves and defend every citizen as if we are the same person.
We must meet this moment in history with a willingness to take action. To demand change. And to change ourselves.
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