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Black Lives Matter – White Allies
Joe: Hi. I’m Joe Crump. My daughter Katy and I drove down to the Indiana Capitol Building on Saturday to participate in a Black Lives Matter sit-in in March. Our purpose was to show our solidarity, our support and be an ally in this vital movement. It’s my hope that it will be the most significant movement for equality that has ever occurred in this country and that we’ll begin to see real and lasting change.
Joe: It’s time for significant change in the way we treat the brown and black community and the only way that change will happen is if their movement has white allies. We need each other.
Joe: The only way women got the vote in this country in 1919, just a hundred years ago, was because of male allies. My grandmother was born in 1901 so she was the first generation of American women who were allowed to vote. Women were finally legally granted this inalienable right because men in our legislature voted to allow it. And that was just white women. Black women didn’t get a vote until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed. And it was another decade after that before Latin, Native and Asian Americans were allowed to vote.
Joe: The same can be said about the slave trade and slave ownership in America. The only way slavery was abolished in our country was because white elected officials were pushed by their constituents to do it. It wasn’t pleasant, it wasn’t popular. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t even peaceful, without bloodshed or loss of life. We had a Civil War. It was hard fought. But there are no ethical people today who would say that the struggle wasn’t worth it.
Joe: The Black Lives Matter movement also needs white allies. And that’s why I showed up last Saturday at this event in downtown Indianapolis. Events like this are happening in just about every city in the country. I could only add my one small voice. But together, in Indianapolis alone, there were thousands of us taking a knee in front of the Indiana State Capitol Building and in our moment of silence we were loud. And now our elected representatives are listening.
Joe: We have a long history of racism and hate in this country. It is perhaps our greatest shame as a nation. I know it’s difficult to hear, but we are all racists and until we acknowledge that fact we won’t be able to fix it. You may say, “I’m not a racist – I treat everyone equally. I try to be respectful and follow the Golden Rule.” And I have to say that’s how I was raised as well. I was taught that racism is wrong, that hate is wrong, and that tolerance and compassion are vital for a civilized society to function. I was also taught that all men are created equal. And those words still fill my heart.
Joe: But if you’re paying attention at all, we all see the ugly reality. Some of us are more equal than others. And it’s not just because we work harder. We live with this open secret. When a white man like me gets pulled over by a police officer for speeding, the worst thing I can expect is a ticket. I’ve been pulled over more than my share of times because I have a bit of a lead foot. But I don’t have much to fear when I get pulled over. The officer asks me for my license, registration and insurance, which I hand to him. They’ve always been polite to me and never asked me to get out of the car.
Joe: They either give me a ticket or more often, give me a warning, wish me a good day and I drive away – slower than before – and don’t really think about it again after that. This is the way that interactions with a police officer should be. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen with most encounters between the police force and the black and brown community. Based on FBI statistics an average of two unarmed black people are killed per week in this country by the police officers whose job it was supposed to be to protect and serve. This is a deep and tragic failure by our law enforcement agencies and the men and women who implement their unconscionable policies.
Joe: The list of dead keeps mounting. The video evidence is unassailable and the guilt of the police force is impossible to deny. For those of you who have had good experiences with law enforcement and have friends and family who work in these jobs, as I have, this is hard to hear and hard not to have an immediate knee jerk reaction against.
Joe: But maybe it’s time to take a breath and think about what’s really happening and consider whether or not our current system makes sense. The murder of George Floyd is the flashpoint of the current rebellion that is happening across the country and the world. And it was an horrific eight minutes and forty-six seconds. But his brutal murder is simply the latest in a long litany of murder and abuse toward the black and brown community by law enforcement in this country.
Joe: It’s time for it to stop. And it won’t stop without the white community lending our support and acting as allies to the oppressed black and brown community. Our silence in this struggle means that the violence will continue. The police are the public face of the failure of government to address the inequality that drives our economy, our healthcare, our education, our joblessness, our system of justice. These problems will not be solved without systemic change. We are at the confluence of multiple, profound, life changing worldwide crises.
Joe: Brutal policing and racism aren’t the only major problems that we face. We’re locked down by a worldwide pandemic. We’re living through an economic crisis and joblessness the like which we haven’t seen in a hundred years. Everyone on the planet is being impacted by global climate change and the destruction that is already resulting in its wake. All these things will change the way we live and prosper in this world. Together, science tells us, these crises have the potential to cause mass planetary human extinction. And we have to decide if we’re going to try to solve these problems or continue to bury our heads in the sand and ignore them and hope to God that someone does it for us.
Joe: I choose to take action
Joe: So, how can this mess be fixed? How do we get our ideals to line up with our reality? I believe that supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is a first step to learning how to organize, to fix the enormous systemic changes that are coming to our world. Black Lives Matter and the social justice movement is a train that is already moving thanks to the tireless efforts and blood spilled by activists in the African American community.
Joe: These are people who have been working on and thinking about this problem for many decades – long before George Floyd was murdered. Let’s support them and listen to them and implement their ideas for solving the problem of policing and racism in this country because I tell you this: the organization and policy changes needed to fix the problems of racism in America will also make it possible to solve the other crises looming in our horizon.
Joe: Without trying to be hyperbolic, we must work together or we will die together. If we work together we can survive. Let’s talk about specific things that can be done. The sign I carried over my head at the march on Saturday said, “Defund the Police. Divest and Invest.”
Joe: I know. It’s hard to hear. But listen to what I have to say. To me, this doesn’t mean get rid of the police entirely. What it does mean is stop using the police to carry out functions in society that require a different skill set than they’re trained for. What do we need police for? We want them to protect us from violent crime. Very little of what they do these days is focused on violent crime or physically protecting the community that they serve.
Joe: Instead, they’re focused on waging war on poverty, homelessness and drugs. All things we’ve criminalized in this country. We implement mass incarceration of black and brown people for obscene amounts of jail time for committing non-violent crimes. Crimes that white men are often let off with a warning, or parole.
Joe: This mass incarceration has caused a new kind of slavery or indentured servitude within the privately-owned jail system where inmates work for pennies per hour. After these men and women are released from prison many states will not allow felons who have served their time to vote, completely disenfranchising them from participation and having a voice in American society. So, American laws, American society, the home of the free and the land of the brave are waging war on black and brown people. And the police force sees it as their job to be warriors. They’re taught this warrior mindset in their police training.
Joe: But we don’t want warriors on our streets. We want peacekeepers. Peacekeepers to protect and serve. Protect and serve all people. The drug crisis would be better handled by trained mental health professionals. It’s not with the purview of police officer training to provide this kind of education to our police officers. Jailing drug users and dealers has been proven to be an enormous waste of public funds and has caused a dramatically higher level of incarceration in the US than any other country in the world – including third world police states.
Joe: The police force also wages war on crime by criminalizing poverty, criminalizing mental illness and criminalizing homelessness. What if we reduced the money going to police for the enforcement of nonviolent petty laws that criminalize these problems and diverted those funds to systems that reduce and treated mental illness? What if we invested in solving the homeless crisis? What would this do for our society? What would it do for all American people?
Joe: I have a small business investing in residential real estate and there are a lot excellent solutions to the homeless crisis that would not cost as much money as people seem to think, and it would give people who need it a place to live and a new lease on life. It would also create commerce, improve our communities and our standard of living and it would reduce violent crime. All these things have been proven to decrease crime and increase the quality of life in communities where they’ve been implemented.
Joe: There’s so much to say, but for now I’m going to try to wrap things up. I know that not everyone is going to agree with me or feel that they need to participate in solving this problem. I get it. But I think many of you may be able to see the value in lending your voice and your support to the changes that are coming to our country. Black Lives Matter tells us there are several ways that the white community can help.
Joe: March with them. Get on Instagram, Facebook and find the Black Lives Matter chapter in your town. They’ll be posting their activities. All you have to do is show up in support, donate to them. There are a lot of good organizations that could use your financial support. Find the one you can help and give what you can. And if you can’t give, follow them on social media and give them your moral support and encouragement.
Joe: Follow their lead and do what you can as a white person to protect them from harm. We aren’t there to tell them how to run their organization. We are there to listen and support and if we can, step in and protect the black and brown community who are marching at our side from the law enforcement officers who might be less willing to hurt us than hurt them.
Joe: Continue to educate yourself and contact your representatives about these issues even after the protests on the street subside. Because the fight doesn’t end until there are legislative changes that actually make a difference to peoples’ lives.
Joe: All right – that’s it for now. If you have comments or ideas about what I’m talking about, please feel free to put them in the comments below. I have a feeling I’m going to get comments whether I like it or not. These ideas may seem radical to you at first, but I ask you to sit with them for a while and listen to your heart.
Joe: All these ideas are not my ideas. They’ve been developed over a lot of years by the activist community who have been trying to end racist policies in the police department and in our society. If I didn’t communicate them well, that’s on me – not on them.
Joe: Reforming the police department by tinkering around the edges with policy hasn’t worked. And so it’s time to do something fundamentally different by reallocating the funds that we currently spend. Changing the way we do law enforcement in the country is only the first step. The only way to effectively create significant, positive change is by addressing the core problems of education, healthcare, income and inequality. That is the job that faces us. This is a rebellion against hate and bigotry in our world and your help is needed.
Joe: Thank you.