Marches. Protests. Riots. Each is a different, unique expression of anguish facing communities and their allies. Each is capable of evolving into another in an instant, with or without actual, representative intent, much less strategic planning.
All of them are rooted in the same reality: something has to change.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis knew this nation needed change. So they marched. And they protested. They preached and practiced non-violence. But make no mistake: others took a different approach in that era. Today, we look back and all too often romanticize the progress made in the 1960s as if marching alone changed the world. It’s easy to do so, comforting even, to fondly remember an uncomplicated step forward.
But change, progress, freedom…none of these come easy. And they are never that simple.
Yes, passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were steps forward, landmark moments in this country’s history. But they weren’t the end of the story. Segregation, discrimination, injustice, disenfranchisement, and bias all endured.
We see that reality on our streets right now. We see it in the overwhelmingly peaceful protests against George Floyd’s murder in police custody, which we cannot overlook in the chaos sown by individuals intent on provocation and mayhem.
The cries and actions of those disparate groups won’t be extinguished if the other three officers involved in Mr. Floyd’s death are charged. The cauldron of issues at play here is too broad and deep-seated than to be a mere question of law enforcement tactics or a one-off encounter captured on video; they go to the roots of inequality, institutional racism (conscious and unconscious alike), as well as the divisiveness that permeates our society.
As we watch this struggle for further progress continue, we know that there is no simple legislative solution—some magic bill we can pass that will suddenly fix everything. But it doesn’t mean we don’t need solutions or actions.
So I’m asking you to come up with practical, workable, achievable solutions. I’m not looking for ideas that have zero chance of happening; I’m looking for real, implementable suggestions that can make an impact and reasonably be carried out in the next five years.
Identifying solutions to the challenges we face—and the underlying, foundational realities upon which they rest—requires looking to each other for insights from across the entire spectrum. As with all difficult problems, a broad array of perspectives is required to produce truly holistic thinking.
Coupled with the pandemic and economic crisis, both of which have severely hit communities of color, this is urgent, this is serious, and we must act swiftly.
Here are a few examples of solutions that are actionable, substantial, and might begin to address some of the underlying issues which contribute to the chasms within our society:
- Compulsory public service for 18 to 24-year-olds for one year to force our youth to begin to talk/work/know each other
- Standardized, expanded and more rigorous ongoing training for all law enforcement
- National data base of terminated law enforcement personnel so bad apples can’t go back in other communities
It’s going to take a lot more than that. But whether you have feedback on those proposals or your own to offer, I’d love to hear your perspective. My only request is that we please remain respectful.
Peace be with you and stay safe out there.