Our neighbours to the south are facing a crisis of identity.
On July 5, a 37-year-old black male, Alton Sterling, was shot and killed by two white police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This event set off a series of protests – the vast majority of which were peaceful demonstrations – throughout the United States.
Unfortunately, and tragically, one of these demonstrations in Dallas Texas ended with the murder of five police officers, who were shot while trying to protect the protestors right to assemble.Let it be clear that the majority of protestors in Dallas and across the United States were showing their rights as free citizens to assemble and protest and did not resort to violence.
The fact that some, very misguided and criminal individuals did resort to violence has created an ongoing media dialogue on the movement of Black Lives Matter (BLM) – which is a movement based on the assumption that the negative experiences of African-Americans with police officers from the United States is not equal to that of white people.
It can be easy to dismiss the African-American experience in the US, like when former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the Black Lives Matter Movement is “inherently racist”because it doesn’t say all lives matter, however that attempt of inclusivity rings a little hollow considering that Black America is still recovering and in some cases living in a system of racism that has been spurred on since the slave trade of the 18th century.
According to Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, in an interview to CNN’s Don Lemon: “Racism is a system – its not about people being mean to each other. So when we have a system that has black people at the losing end of every single disparity that you can think of, that’s what racism is.”
This of course doesn’t justify violence of any kind – something the organizers of Black Lives Matter make very clear – however it does show a disturbing divide between black and white inAmerica and it also brings up a confusing pattern of thought.
Why must an American be pro-BLM and anti-police? Or why must an American be pro-police and anti-BLM? The answer isn’t binary.
Reasonable people can feel sympathy for the African-American experience in the United States. Reasonable people can be concerned about issues of police brutality against certain minority groups. Reasonable people can know that violence against police officers – people just doing their job to protect people – is wrong. None of these ideas are mutually exclusive and it is important for people to not always feel the need to pick sides.
It is important for the United States to end instances of police brutality, while at the same time it is important for people to continually honour good police officers who do a difficult job everyday, and it is important for people to work together to heal the deep racial wounds that infect the American experience.