You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.C.S. Lewis
Like many Americans last year, we experienced a wave of emotions, interactions, and heated debates after the events from May 25th, 2020, were released to the world. I could spend my time sharing anecdotes that could make you laugh, cry, cringe or smile, but it is most critical not to invoke George Floyd’s name in vain. He was a father, son, brother, and he lost his life, as many men and women of color continue to as they face the irreparable harm of police brutality.
As much awareness and spotlight about racial and social justice moved to the forefront of our news media, our company’s social media accounts, and our dinner table talk – many things in America have not changed. More importantly, the narrative is being co-opted, misused, and abused at times for personal gain, fame, and even to further tensions. This country continues to be more divided and divisive than ever before, and yet,
I still have hope….Change is possible.
I will admit there were conversations and actions about race and police brutality in the early aftermath that I didn’t think I would ever see in my lifetime. But those actions and that awareness seem like a lifetime ago, and lawmakers have not been able to pass the legislation needed at the national and state level even with the additional attention on social justice. It is as if we only cared about change when we’re stuck at home during the pandemic, but as soon as the realities of racism, accountability, and what real systematic change requires of us, we were like, “Nah, the status quo is good.”
We know that policy and legislation are needed to make an imperfect system as best as possible. We are not seeking perfection. But we must remember, the change we are talking about is saving lives!
In the current Texas Legislative session, the House passed a package of police reform bills, but the bills (HB 88, 829, 830, 834) could not make it out of the Texas Senate. There was hope for these bills because they did not change qualified immunity. Ending qualified immunity for police officers in certain situations would allow for more accountability for police officers. Some fear that qualified immunity would open up to frivolous lawsuits, but the Cato Institute does a good job debunking those “qualified immunity” concerns. Either way, the Texas Senate was unwilling to touch these bills primarily due to public perception and pressure. And at the national level, the bill is currently being negotiated between Rep. Karen Bass, Sens. Cory Booker, and Tim Scott. This bill includes qualified immunity, which is why there is a stalemate occurring.
But to me, in this social media generation and news clickbait era, I am inclined to believe the refusal to pursue more police accountability is not simply because of the centuries-old discussion of qualified immunity.
We are easily distracted.
Here are, in my opinion, some of the top culprits:
- Arguing about whether systematic racism and white privilege exist: It exists y’all, and we shouldn’t waste too much time getting everyone to understand it.
- Murder rates are surging. The data shows that Americans bought a record number of guns in 2020. We were living with the effects of a global pandemic. Yet, many are trying to blame the focus on police reform as the main culprit.
- Any type of police accountability is anti-police: We know bad actors are rewarded at times and kept employed when we know they have acted poorly. Acknowledging these bad actors is not saying all police officers are bad because they’re not. Stop being so defensive.
- Confederate statutes (and references): I know this is an unpopular take, but regardless of whether they should be taken down, this has become a distraction to the fight for social justice. If you get all the statues of confederate statutes down and no police reform, what do you have? Many advocates and people of color were tricked into thinking we had a magic wand to fix everything, but we didn’t. We needed to focus on the most important things.
And the biggest distraction that I feel almost silly writing about is the biggest distraction of using the language “defund the police.” If you look at some of the polls over the last year (538, the Hill, USA Today), it is clear that it was (and is) the biggest distraction.
I have debated this language more than I have debated the details of the legislation drafted to create real police reform. You might be thinking, “Really, this is what you think was the biggest distraction”?
Oversimplifying the distraction of three words is to highlight – that more than we want to think matters, matters. The fight for racial justice is about saving the lives of fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters, and we are getting caught up in words to where we are refusing to hear the correct message. No cities were close to defunding their police departments, including Minneapolis, that said they were going to, and people could hide behind the fact that they didn’t want to “defund the police” versus focusing on the actual change needed and holding bad police officers accountable. It was so disappointing. And people, including the current President of the United States, called for activists and advocates to use different language besides defund so they could get behind the cause. Most republicans and moderates couldn’t support anything related to “defunding” – if that’s not a distraction, I don’t know what is.
The fight for social justice will be here six months from now, and the next six months, and so on. The champions and advocates who do great work on the front lines will be there, but we need more help and focus. Will you be there, or are you back in your distracted bubble until the next violent video goes viral?
Until Next Time,
Please check out Notley Tide’s, “Unfiltered Racial Justice” event on June 1st. RSVP here.