This last week has been a hurricane, to say the least. Protests spreading at rates analogous to that of a virus all too familiar have swept the globe. Add in local anger over animal rights in Kerala and a wave of groups enraged over alleged ignorance towards inequalities at home, news agencies, and the public have had their plates full. However, as a member of a group that has been speaking out over this time, I've had some time to reflect on how we do it, and I'm seeing some issues. While I absolutely subscribe to their ideals, I believe we're missing a lot to be talked about.
Racism as an idea has been shown to be difficult to root out of a community, at least to remove most microaggressions. While having conversations is essential, it has never in history permeated to every individual of a society. The civil rights movement of the 1960s, the dissolution of the slave trade, these were all turning points in history. But with all of the distance they covered and the awareness they spread, it certainly didn't convince, or maybe even reach, everyone. It certainly didn't stop those who killed Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery, or George Floyd. Even considering all the blood spilled and the tears shed protesting over the last week, they almost certainly will not be the final victims of discrimination.
Keeping in touch with police brutality alone, one must scrutinize the legislation which allows a law enforcement officer to commit the crimes they do without fear of consequences. And that's exactly what we're all missing. We're not talking about qualified immunity, we're not talking about fear-based training, we're not even talking about the benefits afforded to the accused officer in his trial for brutality. We are all so overcome with anguish and disgust at the effort required to charge the 4 officers involved that we don't deep any further. Why? How? These are all questions of utmost importance that 9 out of 10 of vocal individuals overlook today.
Police departments around the US focus on acting, rather than reacting in any situation, and this is aggravated by their curricula. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, departments spend 129 hours on weapons and training, and 8 on conflict de-escalation. Therefore, officers come out of academies, prepped more as militia as opposed to the peacekeeping force they are meant to be. Constant reinforcement of messages that devalue human life is just the tip of the iceberg.
Qualified immunity, awarded to law enforcement, makes legal punishment next to impossible. In general, when using a civilian, the prosecution merely has to prove an infringement of rights. However, when using law enforcement, the prosecution has to prove an infringement of rights that was “clearly established”, which requires a previous conviction on the same charge- which doesn't happen unless the officer issued the first time. It's a constant cycle that removes any form of justice from the system and is still a part of most local legislation.
What makes it worse is the power officers have control over their own records, in roughly half the country, and can keep that information confidential and therefore inadmissible in any legal proceeding. Furthermore, police unions add fuel to the fire. They wield collective bargaining powers that regulate disciplinary and investigative policies of individual police departments. They even have pushed for clearing police misconduct records as often as 60 days.
This is all a small taste of the real systemic policies that allow police officers to act the way they do, and in the eyes of the general public, it's practically invisible. If this interests you at all, I encourage you to research and educate others in the same way that we've been doing this last week.
To make myself clear, I am in no way invalidating current methods of protest, and I recognize its value. I applaud all those spreading information relating to any injustice close to their hearts. I only want to propose an idea to activists standing behind any cause. I believe that we all have to recognize the impracticality of altering social fabric on a scale large enough to advance progress significantly. It doesn't mean that we cannot change those around us, but as an individual trying to get their message out to the masses, this may ultimately prove futile. Tangible and legislative change has always stood the test of time. After all, both movements I spoke of climaxed in legislative change. How do we, as a force for change, try to affect change in a system that we are not familiar with? So whatever your cause- be it the BLM movement, be it animal rights, be it income inequality- understand the mechanisms by which a system is able to commit the aggressions that you accuse them of. Let your emotion and your anger be the force behind your message, not the message itself.