Let me start off by acknowledging a few things.
- Personally, I’m a believer that there are issues – proportionality, consistency, sentencing guidelines, etc. – within our criminal justice system that are in desperate need of reform.
- I’m also a believer that there persists a cycle of poverty in the inner cities that can be, and must be, broken.
- Being a public-school teacher for almost two decades, where my life has been largely consumed in the realm of education, I am painfully aware of the shocking and inexcusable disparity between wealthy “white” schools and disadvantaged “black” schools.
- Additionally, I am extraordinarily uneasy with the militarization of our police departments in recent years, and think our current era of social media and viral cell phone videos have revealed a desperate need for a change in training for police – specifically in de-escalation tactics.
- Finally, I am a firm believer that there are a lot of people like me: white, middle-class people who recognize there are some real problems that need to be addressed, and who aren’t interested in turning a blind eye to our current turmoil or kicking the can down the road. We’re ready to support policy changes – now.
All that said, let me tell you what I also think is unhelpful in the cause of initiating these changes.
Jacob Blake is not the poster child for the movement. While being a repeat offender or a domestic abuser is no justification for a death sentence (yes, I know he didn’t die, but the officer who unloaded his weapon into Blake’s back wouldn’t have had reason to think he wouldn’t), repeatedly ignoring and resisting police officers whose guns are drawn, opening your vehicle door and reaching down to rifle around on the floorboard is a recipe for disaster. There are few police officers, of any color, who would not interpret that as a mortal threat to them and others in the vicinity.
Yes, seven shots is excessive and demands some kind of explanation, but the use of lethal force in that situation is entirely different to a reasonable mind than, say, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes when he has already been subdued and is in obvious distress.
It also seems both prudent and appropriate in this moment to assign racial motivations only when there exists evidence of such. Assuming the white officer shot Jacob Blake because he was black rather than because he was appearing to be a lethal threat is not the way to convey the legitimacy of your intentions.
Further, scenes like this are extraordinarily unhelpful to what should be our shared cause:
Senator Rand Paul has probably done more to push for criminal justice reform than any D.C. lawmaker of either party. This is the man who sponsored the “Justice for Breonna Taylor” act for heaven’s sake.
What scenes like this do is reinforce the idea that it isn’t really about justice and instead it’s about pushing far-left progressivism. If every Republican is a bad guy, deserving of being harassed and accosted by street rioters, then let’s dispense with the notion this is about black people or about equality. It’s about utilizing lawlessness and terror to advance Democrat party politics.
There are plenty of people – good people – who already think that. Things like this aren’t going to change their minds.