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Help Me Understand: How is My Life Better as a Black Man?

How is my life, as a black man, better than it was two months ago, and are current efforts working towards the goal of a safer life for black people?

Photo by: Wouter Engler

I’m trying a new approach. I think that often we approach debates from the position of being right and having to convince the other side they are wrong. It means we aren’t really listening for understanding, but for points to counter. What this often leads to is people yelling their best arguments at each other and making no progress.

So, I won’t be making an argument for or against, I will be stating my sticking points. This is not an opportunity to lecture me, but more like be a tutor to guide me to the right answer. If you can explain these issues, I am on your side. If not, I’m not going to tell you to reevaluate your side that is on you. I am seeking understanding, not trying to change minds.

Are protests working?

First, I support protests as a way that Americans have addressed social change. When done right, and for the right reasons, I’m a big fan. We are far past the “raise awareness” stage, so what are the protests currently accomplishing? Police across the nation are still using choke-holds, Breonna Taylor’s killer are still free, and there has been no cultural shift in police department and guilds. So, how are the protests currently making my life safer?

Will defunding the police make black lives safer?

I fully support police reform and reorganization. I like the idea of having other services show up in stressful situations where a person with a gun will only make things worse.  Situations with someone with mental health issues or dealing with the homeless. Times when someone can offer services and not handcuffs. Programs like this in other cities shows a lot of promise and I would love to see something like that implemented in my area. So, my question isn’t is it a good idea, my question is will it make black lives safer? The distinction is important.

Now look at the list of names when we talk about Black Lives Matter. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, the list goes on, none of them were homeless or facing a mental health crisis. All were killed after police were responding to a crime or a traffic infraction. Something those other services would not be doing.

As much as I want someone else to take over these duties for the police, none of the defund the police solutions are changing the issue of black people being killed by the police because none of them would have been used in the deaths of these black people.

I’m going to say that again and put it in bold and underline it for the people that skim articles. None of the solutions proposed in defunding the police would have saved the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and many more. Defund the police = good, but does not solve the problem we need solved.

Banning tear gas and non-lethal measures

Avoiding the discussion of what “non-lethal” means, I am using it in the context of how law enforcement categorizes it. I know city of Seattle banned them, and at the time of this writing, a federal judge blocked the ban. But here is why it is a sticking point for me. I’m not worried about being pepper sprayed by the police, I am worried about being shot by them. I will take a mild irritant over dying any day. I want the police to have as many steps between verbal warning and shooting as possible.

In fact, can we make up new tools for the police? Can someone invent a combination Taser, pepper spray, Spiderman web shooter, tranquilizer gun? Let’s give them a lot of options before they bring the steel.

How is my life as a black man safer?

I need this question answered. Because, to me, it seems like we have not solved the issues that would demonstrate that black lives, do indeed, matter. It seems to me that this is about white safety. All of this started because of excessive force, inflicted by white police officer, on black citizens. Many who did not commit an arrestable offense, and none committing an offense where the death penalty is a possible punishment. None were having a mental health crisis or in a situation where the police would not be involved if we successfully defunded the police into other programs.

I don’t want to argue semantics, and you should think about your response before touching the keyboard. But please, help me understand; how is my life, as a black man, safer than it was two months ago and how are the current efforts getting us towards that goal? If it isn’t better, should we be doing things different?