When Will All Lives Matter?
By: E. Faye Williams
No one in her or his right mind would expect to leave home and not return alive. Those engaged in warfare and in other special circumstances may contradict this; but, under normal conditions, people expect to return home in the same or better condition as when they left home.
Although I’ve never accepted it as a carte blanc argument for every action of those in public safety, I’ve always been respectful of the concept that police officers have the right to expect to return safely to their homes and their families after each shift of duty. The horrific scene in Dallas was a stark reminder that some police die trying to serve and protect. For them we are grateful, but there are so many who need to find other professions.
We’ve come to believe that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We were taught that in basic civics. Unfortunately, for far too many, the expectation for a safe return home becomes a ‘dream for fools.’ This past week, the tragedy for two more Black males, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, was that two officers sworn to “Serve and Protect” them were the ones who snatched the dream of a safe return home from them without a trial to determine guilt or innocence.
While searching for a reason for these murders, one begins to understand that there are no simple answers to the question “Why?” Those gun lovers and those sympathetic always to the police, and never Black people, are surfacing reports that each of these men was armed and gave justification to being shot. Never mind that based upon available video, Alton Sterling in Louisiana had been subdued by the police and that an officer drew his service weapon with his finger on the trigger, clearly indicating intent to shoot. This intent is understood because traditional law enforcement training dictates that unless the intent is to shoot, the officer’s trigger-finger is to remain outside the trigger guard. Never mind that, based upon available audio and video, Philando Castile, in Minnesota, was reaching upon his person to present his concealed carry weapon permit to the officer who detained him in a ‘routine’ traffic stop.
The question “Why?” remains unanswered.
Simplistically and based upon a false equivalence, some try to explain these events away. They suggest that instead of focusing on homicides committed by cops upon Black Americans, we should instead focus on Black-on-Black murders. They argue that until there’s as much outrage about B-on-B crime, criticism of the police is unwarranted. Dick Gregory dispels the myth of B-on-B crime by pointing out that proximity of the races (in our segregated society) creates what appears to be disproportionate B-on-B crime. He also points out that whites are never identified or condemned for their disproportionate crime against other whites, but we never hear about white-on-white crime.
Some suggest that the recent racist/sexist/xenophobic rants of Donald Trump in his Presidential race have emboldened bigots to emerge from their sewers of intolerance. Not many would argue that there is not evidence to support this position, but it, too, does not offer a more complete explanation.
In 240 years of existence, the United States has not yet dealt with its filthy little secret. That secret is that intolerance, racial and otherwise, has been woven into the fabric of our nation and how we interact and do business. The de-valuation of others is accepted as long as we are not affected, and those in control are rarely affected. My heart is broken for the families of Alton, Philando and the Dallas police. When all lives begin to matter, maybe we can end senseless violence of all kind.
(Dr. E. Faye Williams is National President/CEO of the National Congress of Black Women. www.nationalcongressbw.org. 202/678-678)