I have hesitated to write about George Floyd and the current racial divide in our country. Not for fear, but because it seemed better suited as an opportunity for listening, rather than talking.
As I watch city by city in this country burn and crumble from within, I am reminded that not only do we have a portion of our population being marginalized, undervalued, attacked and killed, we have a portion of our population exploiting that very same pain.
I will never pretend to understand the anger and frustration of the black community. I refuse to pretend to relate to the fear any mother of a black son feels when her son leaves the house. I will not pretend that although I was born into a family lacking wealth, connections and power, I still may have had little to overcome in comparison to the obstacles experienced by many others.
I will also not pretend that one of the issues preventing change in this country isn’t accountability.
Accountability that bad cops, unfortunately, do exist and are too often given the benefit of the doubt until video surfaces. Accountability that good cops, with noble intentions, are met with misplaced anger and prejudice every shift of every day. Accountability that a black man’s pulse must rapidly increase when a siren sounds and lights flash from behind his car.
Accountability that the issues plaguing much of our inner city communities run deeper than overt racism and are much more systemic in nature. Accountability for the continued election of failed leadership in my city of Baltimore and also around the country. Accountability for the small crowd that gathered when a 7 year old little black girl was shot and killed while riding in the back seat of a car a few years ago. Accountability for the lack of media coverage when her 5 year old sister was shot just 4 months later, while playing in front of her house. Accountability for why our city did not erupt in protest for either of them.
Accountability that burning down businesses and neighborhoods only further marginalizes the communities being fought for. Anger and frustration are normal human emotions, destruction is never a solution and must not be tolerated nor excused, as it will never reach the ears it is aimed and will only confirm and validate current biases. If change is what is being sought, it is necessary to project your voice to those that stand in front of you, not just the ones standing beside you. Accountability for allowing groups instigating violence, to be combined with those peacefully protesting.
Accountability that although we all may have experienced discrimination at one time or another, some of us historically pay a much larger price.
Accountability that many white people do not consider themselves racist simply because their families were never slave owners and a quick social media post quoting Martin Luther King Jr or detailing their outrage is enough confirmation for many others.
Accountability as to why the last times my city received this much media attention was in April 2015 and when it was referred to as a shit hole. Accountability for the fact that our city has not only never recovered from those past riots, but has been on a steady decline ever since. Accountability for the change that never occurred.
Accountability for the ease with which we use our voices when we are reminded to by the news. Accountability for the muting of our voices when the news cycle changes, the cameras go home and the politicians are done taking photos. Accountability that the same voices crying out now for the protesters right to be heard, were some of the same voices attempting to silence different protesters a few weeks ago and vice versa. Constitutional rights should be supported at all times, not just when it is of political convenience for either side.
Accountability that we have never fought for change in the way truly needed. Accountability that change will never happen until the cameras are turned off, the fires extinguished and we each take a seat at the table to not only acknowledge, but accept responsibility for the past and present.
I do not have a full proof solution to offer, but I have a pretty good idea where to start.
We can start by repairing the relationship between our police and those they have been tasked with serving and protecting before it becomes irreparable, which is quickly approaching. We can start by fighting for justice all the time, not just when we are told to by the media. We can start by recognizing the same fingers used to point at someone else, can also be pointed at our selves. We can start by removing the corruption that plagues many of our local, city governments and ask questions when our elected officials get richer and our schools do not have heat. We can start by not re-electing politicians that have already been caught stealing from the constituents they promised to help. We can start by electing representatives whose focus is to help the people, with a willingness to work hardest when no one is watching, not just when it is time for re-election. We can start by teaching those who need to learn, how to fish, instead of just throwing a fish to keep them quiet. We can start by not using every crisis as an opportunity for a political play. We can start by understanding and accepting the multitude of factors that have contributed to our current state.
But if change is our goal, we must first start with accountability before we can start the process of healing.