When I started writing for Medium, I was determined to carefully avoid “going political” in my blogs, and for the most part, I have succeeded. I firmly believe that there is nothing more polarizing, more divisive than politics, especially under the current, horrible administration. But there are times when issues some consider political transcend mere politics. These are the times that I cannot remain silent. So, I would say the following blog is more about basic morals than it is about politics, as much as some readers might make it out to be.
The reasons that I can no longer remain silent are that I am a Jew and that I am a mother. As a Jew, the Torah and the ethics of my people command me to stand up for the oppressed, and to treat even the stranger as “one of us. For you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Elie Wiesel wrote, “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality help the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
As a mother, I understand how each of us worries about our children. With the everyday worries about our kid’s schoolwork, health, and everyday safety, no mother should have the additional worry about someone taking their child’s life simply because of the color of their skin.
Black lives matter. And the snap-back response of “All lives matter,” is very insulting — a response that is intended to sidestep the issue of racism that needs to be addressed. Why can’t we respond in this way? The best analogy I’ve read explains it very clearly: Say you fall off the ladder and break your arm. You go to the doctor, who prods and checks your torso and your legs. You say, “Doctor, please, my arm is broken.” The doctor looks at you with reproach. “Your whole body is important,” the doctor tells you. “Yes,” you reply, “my whole body is important, but it’s my arm that is broken right now. My arm matters.” Of course, we strive for a society where we all believe that all lives matter, but right now, black lives matter because this is issue our society’s broken arm.
I stand with African-American people — black people, because there seems to be open season to attack them, backed by inflammatory words from the highest office in the land. I speak up to fight against the deadliest kind of betrayal — that of apathy, which is the true opposite of love. It is our apathy that is killing people. I have to speak up because when the victim says, “I can’t breathe,” and is answered with, “I don’t care,” by his attacker, there is great injustice going on.
Speaking up about confronting racism is not political — it has nothing to do with being a Republican or a Democrat, nothing to do with who you voted for in the last election. This persecution by the police is simply the nastiest, ugliest, most naked bigotry that sees skin color only, and not the content of a person’s character, and judges itself to be free of consequences, free of repercussion to kill, to hurt, to demoralize, and ultimately dehumanize.
As a white woman, I am super aware of the fact that if I call the police, they will come to help me. I am also pretty sure that I will not be shot in my own house because of that privilege.
It is little wonder to me that many black folks protest, and some even riot and loot. I, too, would be enraged, beyond reason. During the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, President Johnson said, “What did you expect? … When you put a foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do?”
How much blood, which is the same color in everybody, is enough to spill before there are actual changes? How much longer will people have to suffer, to watch their children suffer, before there is only one set of laws, for everyone, not laws for whites and laws for blacks? How about now? How about holding the people in authority accountable for their vicious actions? How about the fact that no mother should worry when her son is driving to work and is stopped because he was “driving while black?”
To paraphrase a quote by John Stuart Mill, all it takes for evil to win is for good people to do nothing. Saying it loudly and clearly — Black Lives Matter — is the first step. Taking action to fix the problems is the second step.
I absolutely do not advocate disarming the police — they go against drug dealers who fire actual bullets at them. The police are called upon to deal with people at their worst and deal with some horrific shit, day in and day out. This, however, does not excuse murder, simple basic murder and persecution.
So, what do I think we can and should do? For one, educate and train the police — you should have at least a two-year degree in criminology, with, hopefully, a minor in psychology. Classes have to be taken not only how to intimidate, subdue and take control of the situation, but also in negotiation, de-escalation, and diplomacy. Travel has to be mandatory — let our peace officers learn from other cities, states, and countries on what works.
There should be specialization within each department — there should be members who understand and utilize social services, others who work with mental health centers. There should be community resources to support the work of police, and police officers should be familiar with these community partners. Violence should always be the last resort, not a go-to response.
My step-father-in-law was a police officer in St. Louis for 35 years before retiring. He rose through the ranks, from patrol to vice to murder investigations. (He passed away two years ago this January.) When we first met, about 12 years ago, and he found out that I am a writer, he told me, “Never make a police officer perfect.” “No problem,” I told him. I read Joseph Wambough’s The Choirboys. Why should the police be perfect if they are human?
Our police system is broken. No one is knocking on my door to get the solutions, but I know that overhauls are possible, change is doable and must be implemented. We cannot go on as if nothing has happened, we cannot be back to “normal,” because “normal” is broken, it is does not work. We cannot ignore each other, we need to talk about race, about different cultures, about our differences as well as our similarities. There can be no relationship without communication.
Let’s talk to one another even if we disagree — especially if we disagree!