Here we go again. We have yet another police shooting of a black man, and riots ensue. It’s time to take up our familiar positions in the argument. Black Lives Matter and their allies on the left see systematic civil rights violations and institutionalized discrimination against blacks, and the right defends police officers and calls for patience while the justice system does its work.
Both sides are right. Both sides are wrong.
While it is true that Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were not the blameless victims the media portrayed them to be, we live in a world of internet memes, short attention spans, and lasting perceptions. A lie, as Mark Twain reputedly said, can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. Meanwhile, the anger of black people trapped in bad neighborhoods is real.
While it is true that the vast majority of police officers are good people doing a difficult job as best they can, it is also true that a few resort to force too quickly. Whether because of the stress of putting their lives on the line or racial bias is immaterial; it feeds a narrative.
I will not pretend to have all the answers, and I will not pretend to know what it’s like to be a police officer or a young black man in the inner city – but I do know one thing: when people are this angry, the situation will not be defused with arguments, rational or otherwise.
We, as conservatives, must recognize that a sizable portion of our society feels disenfranchised. It doesn’t matter who they vote for. It doesn’t matter which political party runs their city governments. The last thing an angry person wants to hear is “You’re wrong” or “This is all your own fault.”
Republicans always bemoan how Democrats win 90%+ of the black vote. To be fair, Republicans have tried talking to blacks and addressing their problems. From Jack Kemp’s Project HOPE to education reform and speeches to the NAACP, Republicans talked. It didn’t change anything.
Maybe the path forward, from both an electoral and sociological standpoint, is to show blacks that we care…because the perception, fair or unfair, is that we don’t. But we can display empathy without becoming Democrat-lite. We can sympathize without pandering. We do not have to excuse violence or riots, but we can acknowledge that blacks have legitimate reasons to be angry. We can share in their frustrations. We can tell them we want to make their lives better…but they have to feel it.
Once they do, maybe then we will be able to talk to them. Maybe then we can present our ideas, and, most importantly, be heard. I firmly believe most of us do care. I firmly believe our ideas deserve a hearing. Once a majority of blacks believe that as well, perhaps we have a chance to earn their votes.
Maybe then, America can finally live up to the dream of a color blind society where everyone knows opportunity is out there for the taking no matter who they are.
Trump tried repeating message board tropes about Detroit being bankrupt and blacks voting for the same people for fifty years. He didn’t get very far, did he?