Okay, this essay on protests is taking longer to write than I had hoped. Bottom line: I hope, with all the protesting going on in regards to Ferguson and New York, that this outrage might be channeled into a movement for lasting change.
My hope is that, eventually, the communities of Ferguson, New York, and elsewhere will turn their anger into action. I hope that the protests will transition into dialogue—that protesters (especially white protesters) will listen to the stories of both people of color and the law enforcement officers whom they are protesting.
I hope that community organizers can identify specific policies that they want to change or implement: insisting, for instance, that every police officer must attend mandatory anti-racism trainings, or that the grand jury process be investigated for (and potentially restructured to avoid) racial biases. I hope that protesters will be willing to form broad coalitions with existing organizations who may already be working to make these changes. I hope that the people protesting will meet with their lawmakers in person to convince them to act.
I hope that these communities will eventually find a way to rebuild trust between the police and the communities they serve. Most importantly, I hope that this movement will focus on how these communities can move forward.
Moving forward does not mean forgetting. It doesn’t even mean forgiving, necessarily. Moving forward means accepting the pain of what happened and using that pain to work for the future.
My other thought on all this is that, while I absolutely agree that racism and police brutality are systemic issues that affects many different communities, I question the idea that we can find a blanket solution to End Racism And Police Brutality In Every Police Department Everywhere All At Once. I don’t think we can wave a magic wand and solve this problem overnight. I don’t think the solution will be the same for Ferguson as it will be for, say, Pittsburgh*.
I think every community in America is going to have to figure this one out on its own.
Also, while we’re on the subject of acting locally, Seattle’s new police chief was hired specifically to address issues of excessive force and biased policing. I ain’t even know why y’all are protesting. Yes, it’s a work in progress, and yes, I get the solidarity factor, but hey, at least the city is trying. Let’s give them credit for that much.
*Re: Pittsburgh: I honestly have no idea what’s going on in Pittsburgh right now. I’m using the city as a rhetorical example. Please do not blame me if the next news story to come out in all of this is about the shooting of an unarmed black man in Pittsburgh