In the wake of the recent killings of black U.S. citizens Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by their own police (and the dozens of other similar cases we’ve seen in recent years), I’ve been struggling with what to say in this space. Saying nothing isn’t an option — the injustice is too great.
I’m going to keep it simple and endorse Campaign Zero, a systematic approach to improving policing. The platform doesn’t make villains out of the men and women who risk their lives to protect us (most of them good people, with the public interest at heart), but it does make concrete recommendations that can save lives (of all races, both civilians and public servants), reduce strife, and reduce civil injustice.
A few comments/caveats:
- I’m actually a fan of the broken windows policy in theory, but too often it’s used as a weapon against minorities, mentally ill people, and the homeless. So yes, either end or modify “clean up the streets” campaigns so that they thwart antisocial behavior without threatening lives or imposing disproportionate punishments.
- Training — yes! Listening to the voice of the cop that killed Castile, he’s clearly freaking out, aware of the magnitude of his colossal fuck-up, not a cold-blooded killer. Yes, he’s responsible, but so is the department that failed to train him in making non-lethal traffic stops. Train cops to give fix-it tickets and traffic violations to black men (and all people), without shooting them. Even if that person has a gun on them, or freaks out and runs away.
- Demilitarization. Yes. Armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, drones, Stingray surveillance equipment, camouflage uniforms, and grenade launchers? That’s not policing, that’s going to war with the people you are paid to serve. It’s overkill, and war-corporation profiteering.
Lastly, if the phrase “Black Lives Matter” offends you, think about why. If you aren’t African American, nobody is saying your life doesn’t matter, or matters less. There aren’t any limited resources in terms of whose lives we can care about. “Black Lives Matter” means expand the circle of empathy to include us. It means stop killing us with impunity. It’s not a radical demand — it’s a perfectly reasonable statement.
Update: good interview with an ex-cop in regards to institutional racism