I don’t know of a single person, white, black or any other color, who thinks the situation with regard to George Floyd was remotely acceptable. There are many demands for a conversation about racial inequality in this country. So far, they all seem to be focused on the problem with white cops assaulting black men. There is no doubt that race should not be a factor in how police treat suspects. No one wants people treated unfairly solely because of their race. But that is only part of the conversation and failure to discuss other equally if not more important issues is a huge mistake.
For me the best example of racism in this country is abortion. Most reports are that black women have the highest abortion rate at 27.1 per 1,000 women. The number is closer to 10 per 1,000 for white women. There are disputes regarding the actual numbers, but by any measure a much higher percentage of black babies are aborted then white babies. What could be more racist than denying an unborn child even the chance at life? Even if you consider yourself pro-choice, this statistic should trouble you. Regardless of why this happens, it does happen and the impact is horrific.
In 2018 there were 14,123 murder victims in the United States. 7,407 of them were black. 6,088 were white. Every study shows that most people are killed by members of the same race. White people tend to kill white people and black people tend to kill black people. This means black on black crime is resulting in a disproportionate number of deaths in this country. Those lives also matter.
In 2015, the life expectancy of a white female was 81.3. For a black female it was 78.5. The life expectancy of a white male was 76.6. For a black male it was 72.2. This is a significant improvement from 1990. Then the life expectancy of a white female was 79.6 and a black female was 73.6. The life expectancy of a white male was 72.7 and a black male was 64.5. So, things have improved, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Those black lives matter too.
Let me be blunt. If doctors feel threatened when they are in high crime neighborhoods, don’t be surprised when they open up their practice in an area they consider to be safer. If store owners feel threatened when they try to operate in high crime neighborhoods don’t be surprised if they chose to open their next store somewhere else. If police feel threatened responding to reports of crime in a high crime neighborhood, don’t be surprised to see a reduced police presence. If school teachers feel threatened to teach school in a high crime neighborhood, don’t be surprised if they choose to teach in another school district. If there are fewer opportunities for a job, don’t be surprised if people turn to crime. The people most impacted by this will be the people who need the most assistance. It is a vicious cycle that will not change until everyone becomes united on solutions that actually work.
Yes black lives matter. All black lives matter. And it helps almost no one to focus only on one area of concern while doing close to nothing to fix other, far more deadly, problems. I don’t know the solution to this. But I do know of historical examples where real change was made possible.
My wife and I recently watched the Baseball Documentary on PBS. It reminded me of the story of Jackie Robinson. If anyone had a right to complain about unfair treatment it was Jackie Robinson. He was not even allowed to stay in the same hotel as the rest of the team. Before he even joined the Brooklyn Dodgers some players threatened to boycott the team to stop him. He was subjected to racial slurs we couldn’t even imagine today. He was sometimes deliberately injured by white players who hated him because of the color of his skin. The odds were stacked against him, but Jackie Robinson knew that if he succeeded, he would change the world, at least with regard to major league baseball. Incredibly, he did succeed. He didn’t succeed because he was given special privileges or concessions. He succeeded because he made it impossible for anyone to even argue that he was not up to the challenge.
I have often thought about this. What if Jackie Robinson had been given special privileges? What if he was allowed four strikes or a head start to first base? That would have been the ultimate insult. It also would have made it impossible for him to revolutionize professional sports in this country. He shouldn’t have had to endure any of this. He deserved better. But he did endure and we should all be grateful. We should do more than that. We should learn from his example.
Branch Rickey deserves credit for giving Jackie Robinson a chance. Jackie Robinson deserves credit for taking advantage of opportunity. But we all benefited from two people who showed enough courage to recognize the problem and more importantly make the sacrifices necessary to fix the problem.
The problem between police and black males will change when and only when two things happen. One is that police believe that the color of one’s skin has nothing to do with whether or not someone is guilty of a crime. It is when police treat everyone the same, regardless of race. The other is when black males learn that police have a difficult job and dangerous job. The less police feel threatened by someone the less likely they are to respond with violence. It is when both sides learn to appreciate and respect each other.
Some of the protesters get it. They are the ones walking toward police with their hands in the air, showing they are not a threat. Some protesters have even prayed with police. Others do not. They are the ones standing in the back throwing things, setting fires and looting stores. It is time to focus on those capable of being part of the solution and not those who insist taking actions that will only make the problem worse.
It is critical to note that some of the worst offenders are not even black. To them, race has nothing to do with this. They thrive on chaos without regard to the impact on others.
Ultimately, if we want to end racism, we need to listen to people like Martin Luther King:
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King changed the world, not with violence, but by rejecting violence. It still not perfect, but it is much better than it was. Incredibly he even dreamed of sitting down at the table of brotherhood with those he could hold most responsible:
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood
True on August 28, 2963. True today.