Message needs to make it through


(Portland) Commercial Review

This is not binary.

This is not one or the other.

This is not about choosing sides.

This is not about tribes, no matter what sort of effluvia comes at you from social media.

It is entirely possible to support your local police while decrying the police brutality that occurs all too often in this nation.

It is entirely possible to deplore the slaying in Minneapolis of George Floyd while also decrying the violence of riots in that proud city’s streets.

And if this country is ever going to come to grips with the matter of race and police, we’re going to have to jettison the idea that it’s a binary, either-or, black or white issue.

It is a fact black Americans are more often the subjects of police violence than white Americans.

It is also a fact most American police officers put public safety above all other values as their lodestar.

Most of those officers are profoundly disturbed by what they saw on that Minneapolis video. Most of those officers recognize that it undermines their professionalism when “bad apples” wreak havoc.

But it’s also a fact of American life that far too many of us see the world through a prism of race, a prism that can lead an officer to expect the worst when he’s paged out on an incident involving an African-American male. Unconsciously, the adrenalin gets pumping. A set of assumptions takes over — not consciously racist — but real just the same.

Think that doesn’t happen in Indiana?

Think again.

Driving while black isn’t on the books as an offense. Driving while Hispanic isn’t an offense. But both can get you pulled over.

It’s not as if it’s a clearly thought out process. It’s based upon ingrained instinct. The presumption is built-in that there’s a reason for law enforcement to intervene.

And that’s what is at the heart of the matter this week: How we see one another. How we value one another.

When the Black Lives Matter movement started a few years ago, it was profoundly — and perhaps intentionally — misunderstood by much of America.

It was easy to respond, “All lives matter.”

True enough, but that missed the point.

Black Americans were telling the rest of their country that the country’s power structure had treated them as if their lives had no meaning, that they were expendable, that different rules of engagement were in place when law enforcement made a routine traffic stop on people of color.

And they were telling the rest of the country that this discounting of their lives and their existence has been going on for generations, through slavery, through Jim Crow, and — sadly — is continuing today.

Ultimately, that’s the message that needs to get through.

It’s not binary. It’s not tribal. It’s just the truth.

Send comments to [email protected].

No posts to display