So much has been said and written in the aftermath of the police shootings and subsequent protests of the last year. I think my take is somewhat unique, and I’d like for you to read this message that I sent yesterday to a very promising up-and-coming politician that I’ve come to know:
So, I’m a recovering journalist who found his path with creative writing, but I’ve lived in Washington DC, known many political figures like yourself, and as you know, I’ve always been something of a political junkie…
I guess what I want to convey to you are two things that I think truly need to be articulated by public figures all over the nation at this point in time:
Number 1: instead of officials saying, “not all police are bad” I think, instead, someone needs to say, “look, some police are bad.”
It’s an important distinction, the word usage matters, because admitting that there are bad police who should be jailed or fired immediately is, quite simply, true.
The “not all police are bad” statement implies that we should tolerate a violent, racist criminal element in any police department.
“Some police are bad” states the problem AND infers a solution. Until departments are willing to concede this truism, the “code” remains, unauthorized lethal force continues, the cycle strengthens, black people die and no one is convicted of a crime because proving intent in such cases is so difficult.
Number 2: reframe the narrative to “Value All Lives.”
Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. All lives matter. I really don’t like the way that people are clinging to these as acceptable terms for the dialogue we MUST have.
I think the time has come for a different framing or idea. It is crucial that this happen.
Julian Bond was a professor of mine at American University (many many moons ago) and he stated that instead of people thinking of America as a melting pot, some kind of amorphous yet homogenous stew, we might want to consider the idea that America is actually a mosaic, colors forged together, yet distinct, the lines between them often gray, to form one large beautiful stained glass image. Break one part of it and the whole thing shatters and/or is ruined.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and I think a new movement should start.
“Value all lives.”
Again, the word choices we make have significance. When one says, “Black lives matter.” or “blue lives matter” or “all lives matter” it is my feeling that, immediately, a line in the sand has been drawn. No connections are made. I think it also implies that a level of dehumanizing has occurred. Whether people are rightly or wrongly angry, this isn’t the issue. The issue is, an adversarial AND defensive stance has been taken. And the conversation can’t seem to leap the line in the sand.
The continued debasement and devaluation of human life in our society and around the globe has led us here. Progressions can’t be made if we’re separate forever.
We’re forgetting what it means to VALUE each other, to respect another person’s right to live in peace.
If we ask people to get behind an idea, I hope we can persuade people to decide to “Value All Lives.”
It’s a choice. A choice we can all make. No blame is cast, no lines are drawn, it is clear: we’re all in this together.
Both black leaders and police departments can agree to “value all lives.” Politicians and policies can be better when they “value all lives.”
I believe this with all of my heart.
I hope, as a rising political figure, you can lead the discussion. Perhaps even make your locality a model of how other communities can come together to heal these wounds.