As we cry on the heels of another police shooting of an unarmed African-American, Indiana and Arkansas show the way for a necessary change
America: meet the late Walter Scott.
Much like during the cases of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, there are issues of the shooting victim having a physical confrontation with their assailants. Just the same, there also seems to be the same question of when a police officer “fears for his life,” whether that be in the case of Jonathan Farrell in Charlotte, Anthony Hill in Atlanta, or Leon Ford in Pittsburgh.
Even with videos – such as the case with both Ford in 2012 and Eric Garner in 2014 – too many bad police officers continue to violate Americans’ constitutional rights at alarming rates with the practice of stop-and-frisk, the too-frequent occurrence of “justifiable police shootings” of unarmed Blacks, and the entrenched belief that African-Americans are assailants to subdue by any means necessary, not Americas afforded full due process.
Only African-Americans – through protest, persistence, and problem-solving tactics – are going to change this dynamic permanently throughout the nation’s communities. This movement needs to ramp up its efforts – immediately.
Ironically, it just so happens that the LGBT community took a page out of the Civil Rights Movement’s playbook in order to get major changes in two state laws over the course of last week: one in Indiana (after it was passed), another inArkansas (before it was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson).
In modern-day America, attention comes through marches, focus comes from creative protests, and momentum comes from social media campaigns. However, change comes through economic and political pressure.
It’s time for Black America to reclaim this understanding and put it to use before more unarmed Black men are abused, shot and killed – likely without the benefit of a camera-phone, a video-recorder, or photographic evidence.
It does not matter at this point how much some corporations spend on HBCU scholarships, urban after-school programs, or other worthy initiatives to make much-needed changes in our communities. Certainly, these efforts are appreciated and must continue. However, as I mentioned this week in Pittsburgh, we as African-Americans simply cannot be afraid of upsetting corporate partners and employers if we truly seek a higher practice of safety and justice for African-Americans in police-community interactions.
The gay community was not when it came to engaging two states.
Gay Americans are employed by Wal-Mart and the NCAA. They shop at Wal-Mart and they want college basketball. They live in Indiana and Arkansas. Yet, they set aside their fears, apprehensions, and risks. They pursued what they felt were necessary assurances of their equality as American citizens by way of prompting legal changes through economic and political pressure.
Blacks have more spending power. Via established statistics, we make up more of the population. By way of Civil Rights history, we have set the standard for success regarding ushering in social change.
Why would we back away from our obligations to the game-changers before us and the descendents that proceed us? When all gave some for the struggle and some gave all for the struggle of Black people in America, who are we to say that we fear giving up material items for the sake of moral justice and constitutional security?
These questions hit hard after we just watched another group of Americans take on the same task and find success in their endeavor – within the period of roughly one week.
How far are we truly willing to go for the sake of safety, justice, and necessary change?
It is clear: there is a systematic problem between police forces and Black Americans. It may be a training issue. It may be a racial issue. It may be a perception issue.
It is not a new issue.
Until African-Americans are willing to do more, risk more, and press more in order to apply the necessary pressure to bend the policies, perceptions, laws, and leadership towards a more perfect direction – one that keeps the rights and protections of all Americans sacred – we will continue to cry over dead bodies in the streets, grimace over racial tensions involving avoidable tragedies, and ponder solutions to issues that divide our communities and limit our effectiveness as Americans.
Yet, there’s really not much to think about at this point regarding tactics and next steps: the playbook for pushing for social changes successfully just played out on the national stage – twice – over the last week.
The only question now is: are we ready to play to win – before we lose another one on the business end of gunfire?
Lenny McAllister is a political analyst and commentator that hosts and produces NightTalk: Get to the Point on the Pittsburgh Cable News Channel on Friday nights at 8pm. He is also a host at Newsradio 1020 KDKA in Pittsburgh. He is also featured on various local, national and international outlets including Al Jazeera America, CNN, the American Urban Radio Network, and Sun News Network. You can follow Lenny on Twitter and Facebook.