There are few areas of culture where it is easier to be misunderstood than the issue of race relations. We all can be tone deaf to the way other people hear our words. I see this on all sides, and I know I have my own blind spots. And it is exactly when we are feeling raw emotions that we are most likely to assume the worst about the intent behind our neighbor’s words and actions. I am open to learning from others and realize that my life experience gives me a particular skewed view. So please do reach out to me if you would like to have a conversation after reading this post.
If someone dealt with oppression day in and day out, and no matter how hard they tried, nothing ever seemed to change… and if they tried playing by the rules but then became convinced the rules were rigged… wouldn’t any sane person in that situation then say “Enough is Enough!” If any person of any color became convinced that the law of the land is not applied fairly or equally, that some crimes are overlooked while others are severely punished, wouldn’t they also come to a point where they say “Enough is Enough!”
It is beyond obvious that racism is evil, a sin against God (who made everyone of us in His image) and a sin against humanity. It is as ugly as human attitudes and behaviors get. But once we all agree to that, then what? How do we actually make things better ? I am totally convinced that the posturing of the right and the posturing of the left are actually making the situation worse. It is always the shrillest voices on both extremes that get the most social media coverage. And then we are tempted to assume that all the people “on the other side” have the same hateful hearts as those with the shrillest voices. It’s not true. We don’t need more self-righteous pontificating, we need solutions that move us together towards equal justice under the law. But that is not as straight forward as some would claim.
Racism is only one head of the Hydra of Hatred. There are lots of ways to hate people. If, in your effort to chop off the head of Racism, you end up producing two more heads of hate, you haven’t helped the situation. You have to starve the entire Hydra. We need liberty and justice for all. And frankly that is all you can expect of your neighbors – an approximate, imperfect attempt at liberty and justice for all. No more. Those neighbors of yours, the ones with different colored skin – they are wretched, broken, fallen sinners – just like you. Just like me. They will never get it all right. An approximation of justice is all that can be expected. But just to reach that requires constant vigilance because, since we all are sinners, oppression of the minority by the majority and oppression of the weak by the powerful will ALWAYS be a problem. Why ? Because human sin will always be a problem. We will always drift towards oppression of someone. We will constantly have to be reforming – just to avoid losing ground in the fight against racism. And we don’t want to settle for the state of affairs we have right now. So what should we do ?
Give each other slack and mercy
Some are lecturing us about how we are not being patriotic enough and that we hate America if we dare to protest. Others are lecturing us about how we are not woke enough and that we hate black people if we don’t protest. Enough. Enough litmus tests. Enough shaming. Think of this. One aspect of the horror of real slavery in this country was the idea that one person could control another person, put them in their place. Tell them what to do. Make them subservient. Make them comply. A lot of the rhetoric on the right and the left echoes this same spirit. Insisting on a 100% “purity” in one’s stance leads to only one thing: resentment and more hatred. Another head of the Hydra begins to rise. To put it plainly, we need to begin with the premise “You are not the boss of me!” and “I am not the boss of you!” Unless we start with the premise that our neighbors will never get it perfectly right, that our neighbors will never be the pristine perfect example of whatever it is we think they should be, we will never get ahead. We will just continue to slide backwards towards the abyss. In other words, we need to give each other some slack and a lot of mercy. In 1st Peter 4:8-9 he says:
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Love covers a multitude of sins. Your neighbor is a sinner and so are you. Give them some slack, give them some mercy, give them some hospitality. Don’t assume the worst of their intentions or actions or words. Is there a time to call someone out ? Yes. But it is far, far more rare than we want to think. If you are spending more time calling people out then you are spending time living out 1 Peter 4:8-9… you have a problem, for Hebrews 12:14 says:
Make every effort to live in peace with all men…
That includes ones you don’t like. That includes ones you think are ignorant and need straightening out.
Focus on solutions, not “virtue signaling”
Let me give you just one example of someone who I think is doing a great job at focusing on solutions rather than pronouncements. A member of my extended family just made a post on Facebook. He is a young black man who makes some very practical suggestions. You might not agree with every point he makes, but how many of these could you agree to ? Watch the video he refers to. Again, I don’t agree 100% with that guy either, (see my comments there) but I think he too is on to something. We can make things better for everyone in our country. We can get much closer to “Liberty and Justice for All” We can get much closer to blind justice where all are considered equal under the law and treated fairly. If you are interested in a civil discussion on systemic solutions (not lectures on what “those people” ought to think or do), please do post your ideas. And please join me in prayer for our brothers and sisters of every beautiful shade of skin and for the peace and prosperity of of the country we share.
Finally, before I get to Tony’s policy ideas, I want to point to the ultimate source of hope for these troubled times. Exactly because of our sinful nature discussed above, there is no legislation, no policy that will fix things completely or permanently. We get one thing fixed, and then just like a parasite, Sin just finds another host (issue) to fester in. The primary change that is needed is the change of the human heart. We need the power of God’s Holy Spirit to do that. We need the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every area of our lives, including our politics, including how we talk to people we disagree with. Let us seek the leading and the power of God’s Holy Spirit in this time – that we might become instruments for good in His hands.
Y’all I usually don’t do this, but its been weighing on me for a couple days that I need to do something. Say something. Any one who knows me knows I’m generally a solutions person. I try my best not to complain for the sake of complaining. Once again we’ve let a few people on either side of the issue, hijack the conversation. We aren’t having the conversation that really needs to be had. So this is my attempt at refocusing the discussion. We need systemic change. If nothing else, decades have proven that it wont start from the top. Its gotta start with us.
With that in mind, Below are some thoughts that I have that will introduce some change in the system for the positive regarding black communities, the public at large, and police communities. I invite anyone who sees fit to engage in the comments in a strictly constructive manner. These thoughts are in no particular order of importance and are by no means exhaustive. READ THE WHOLE POST FIRST. Don’t skim, don’t cherry pick. Read it. Understand it. Internalize it.
Know that this comes from a deep place of caring as well as a deep place of hurt. I’m not here to talk about one incident in particular. I’m not here to talk about politics. I’m here to talk about solutions. Im here to attempt to facilitate positive change.
-End the war on drugs- The war on drugs is inherently and explicitly a racist policy. President Nixon and multiple advisors are on the record saying such. Beyond that, Its a completely failed proposition. Its made zero impact over decades and at this point has fallen victim to the Sunken Cost Fallacy.
-Legalize Marijuana (use, sale, possession, Everything) No matter where you stand on the use of Marijuana, there is plenty of research out there that suggests it isn’t the harmful substance we’ve been led to believe. And that in fact it even has some measurable health benefits. Legalize it, tax it, regulate it just like alcohol and tobacco. This is a no brain-er to me.
Decriminalize all drugs for possession (personal use). Yes ALL OF THEM. Decriminalization and legalization are 2 different concepts. If you want more information, don’t be lazy. Look it up. We shouldn’t criminalize addiction. We should treat it as the mental and public health crisis that it is. Instead of sending addicts to PRISON, we should send them to TREATMENT. They are very different things. Studies have shown that it is less costly to treat a drug addict then to incarcerate them. All the while, incarceration has the added net negative of labeling someone as a felon and significantly limiting their ability to provide for themselves and their families once they are released.
-Stop and frisk. This ones pretty self explanatory. If you need anymore information just see Mike Bloombergs (and others) statements and the countless studies that show this policy disproportionately affects and targets young black men.
–Disciplinary review board. This one is all about Police accountability. Its clear to me that Internal affairs is failing. In too many cases of excessive force that make it as far as mass media coverage, we hear that the officer has multiple complaints if excessive force filed against them. In the George Floyd case, one officer had as many as 18. No I get it, when your working with the public, its bound to happen. You cant please everyone and some people are just petty. But 18? I think we can all agree thats way too many. An external review board made up disproportionately of members of the public that officers serve would help solve this problem.
-Separate office for investigation and charging of public servants(like internal affairs but outside the government chain of command). In far too many cases, we see the proprietorial and charging decisions in cases like this, left up to the Same District attorneys, and grand Juries that these officers go to work with every day. I know that offices of Internal affairs exist. But put frankly, they dont seem to be getting the job done.
-Make community service part of academy training and An ongoing requirement. So many officers end up policing neighborhoods and populations they don’t know or understand. The lack of familiarity leads to misunderstanding and mistrust. Having officers in regular contact with neighborhood faith leaders and community members could be an easy way for officers and the community to reconnect themselves with one another. Ingratiating officers to the community and making them a mainstay in the community outside of there uniform will make them appear as part of the community they serve, rather then an occupying force.
-Body cameras. Duh They’re for Citizens protection as well as officer protection. They should be a mandatory part of the uniform. Further, if an officer has and incident and the body camera is not functioning properly, it should result in disciplinary action. Officers would never walk the beat without there Gun being properly serviced. Cameras should be the same way. Body camera footage should be easily requested and acceptable to a review board, and ideally the public at large via a FOIA request, or equivalent mechanism.
-Reform/revisit legal authorities for serving of warrants. Especially no knock warrants. Officers especially should be outraged by this practice. They put you and the public you serve at risk. Too many instances where these warrants are served on the wrong address occur. Officers go rushing in and are face to face with people who think a home invasion is happening. It puts Civilians in a position for force to be used, and officers in a position where they can either be shot, or shoot an innocent. The standard of evidence needed to execute one of these warrants should be significantly higher. A simple last known address search shouldn’t be the standard. I know all about intel gathering and analysis. I do it for a living. Proper levels would severely limit these occurrences.
-End cash bail system. This system unduly penalizes being poor. And unfortunately that disproportionately affects minorities, who as we know are magnitudes more likely to encounter police and are arrested at significantly higher rates because of it. People sit in jail for weeks, months, or years because they don’t possess the means (be it cash, or collateral) to post bail. Its also an undue burden on the prison system and tax payer dollars.
NOTE: On the point above, Tony and his friend had the following exchange:
CHRIS: Agree 1000% with everything you said except maybe the cash bail comment. Folks accused of serious crimes have a huge incentive to flee which means we have to re-catch them while they are on the lamb. They also continue crime sprees on the lamb. I know cash bail if flawed but its the best we got in lieu of something better. I have always felt the way you did about drugs dating back to high school in the 80's. Kurt Schmoke suggested this back then when he was mayor of Bmore
TONY: I agree. Thanks for the Clarification. I guess I should make a distinction between violent and nonviolent crimes. I wrote this post with a heavy skew towards the non-violent. Murders, rapes, kidnappings. these things don't really apply to them. Assaults are case by case basis thing for me. If your in a fist fight, you dont deserve to have your life ruined. If you pull a knife or gun. thats a different story. If your Jump someone or unduly injure, or Maim.
Sentencing reform- We say that our system is supposed to rehabilitate people. In actuality it becomes a hot bed for recidivism. We incarcerate people for all kinds of things, label them a felon, take away there voting rights for the rest of their life. Then when they get out of prison, we throw them back on the street where they cant get a Job because we’ve marked them, and have no ability to provide for themselves in a meaningful way. Then were surprised when they resort to further criminal activity. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and we need to stop allowing it to happen. All in all we need structural reform. We need to limit the public interaction with law enforcement. We need to explore and expand alternative punishment that allows people to avoid incarceration where possible.And we need to give people the tools to truly rehabilitate themselves and become productive members of society.
If you made it this far, I applaud you. Its a lot, but again its not exhaustive. I know its filled with mistakes an typos since I typed this on my phone over lunch. Hopefully they aren’t to distracting and didn’t affect comprehension. I’m looking for input here. We need to come together because our “leadership” (all of them) isnt just asleep at the wheel, they jump out of the car while its still moving. So it has to start with us. Like I said, Please feel free to engage in conversation in my comments. I’m happy to do so. But don’t come in there with that bullshit. Keep it serious. Keep it civil. No gotchas. No what about isms. No sarcasm. No Tom Foolery, Buffoonery, Or general childishness. Lets keep in productive. Make a suggestion. Tell me where I got it wrong. Add some nuance. Ask for clarification.
Thank Yall and God Bless.
****** I just want to add That I know I have friends on here that are Officers. Know that I value your input and encourage it. You need to be part of the solution as well. If you feel like you want to contribute, but dont want to make yourself a target given the current climate. I completely understand. Feel free to PM me with any thoughts or to engage in conversation. BUT, I request that you allow me to add your thoughts to the discussion anonymously. I’m all about building trust here.*******
For anybody who cares or is still paying attention. I watched this this morning when I was busy not sleeping. I think its a solid Idea. Hit them where it hurts. The money and the funding. I think 1 offense is probably a little harsh and there should probably be a probationary period or something to that affect, but I like the spirit of the idea. I’ll also say, I like alot of this guys perspectives regarding policing. Not all, But alot. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M71z6K7IkjU
NOTE: On the video above Tony and I had the following exchange:
LANGDON: I had the exact same reaction - great general principal but it needs to feel fair to all - including officers who have an unbelievably difficult job, so maybe like Probation on first finding by commission, 3 strikes and you are out.
TONY: I think that the goal for me is to make the job of officers easier and ultimately safer. that will also result in making the public at large safer.