If you aren’t Black and the past couple weeks haven’t made you think, at least a bit, about what your responsibilities as a human and an American citizen are, then I’d question what will. I’m at least as guilty as millions of others of keeping my thoughts to myself. In my writing, in my interactions with others whose opinions or stances I couldn’t be sure of. I wasn’t willing to take any risk. Didn’t want to offend, potentially lose business opportunities. Didn’t want to chance having someone ignore some data or evidence they could accept because they got distracted by my tone or opinions.
That ends now. It doesn’t mean you’ll find my writing unrecognizable. I’m not sure if or when I’ll participate in a physical protest. But I’m also not going to pretend I didn’t donate small sums to BLM and Stacy Abrams’ voting rights organization this week. Or that after doing so, I didn’t immediately think, “um, this was nice, but especially given my finances, this isn’t going to be enough of an action plan.” I don’t know what all the appropriate next steps are, and while I hope I’ll continue to take next steps for the rest of my existence, I’m also typing and posting this because I don’t trust myself and need the accountability.
A few other things you should know. I was a registered Republican for over 20 years. I cast my first presidential vote for Bob Dole. Picked W twice. There was no doubt either time. I didn’t vote for Barack Obama. I did vote for Hillary Clinton, even though I’ve at best disliked her since she went on 60 Minutes to save her husband’s career in 1992. Because Trump. And I changed my registration in 2018 because at this moment, Donald Trump and the Republican Party are effectively a single organism.
So, although I’m certain he’s not up to the task, praying he picks a good running mate and then turns the presidency over to her after the 2022 midterms, I’ll be voting for Joe Biden in November. I don’t think this will solve most of what ails America. I do think it’s impossible to fix very much with Trump in the way. Which means it matters greatly to me who wins. And even if you don’t see things my way on anything else, you think it matters who wins too.
Wanting Biden to win and thinking he will are two different things. His odds are good right now. How good? We’ll look at that in depth over the next few weeks. While I thought it was crucial to show a few cards today, I’m not planning on proselytizing for Biden here. If he needs me to make his case, he’s going to lose.
I am very interested in an immediate change in how police interact with the Black community. I’m late on this. When Eric Garner was choked out, I figured there was an explanation. Michael Brown, same thing. Freddie Gray, perhaps it got away from the cops; they weren’t showing the appropriate care. Laquan McDonald, bad apples.
By the time Philando Castile was murdered, willful ignorance was getting harder. There were obvious structural problems, and clearly innocent people were dying as a result. There was video proof. Most of these innocent victims were Black. I didn’t do anything about it, write anything about it. Likely neither did you. That was four years ago. He was killed while Barack Obama was president. We can’t blame Donald Trump.
Something is different this time. I didn’t speak out before. Didn’t donate before. Didn’t type Black Lives Matter before. I already had close Black friends. Who told me stories. That I knew weren’t flukes. Still did nothing.
Is George Floyd a new Rosa Parks? The straw that at least temporarily gives racism a backache? I hope so. And here, we’ll look at the chances of that happening, the paths it could take, and some of the policy changes that could both get passed and create positive change on the ground.
One thing to remember. America is a 60% country. Almost any change in any direction is possible, if at least sixty percent of Americans want to play. Sometimes it takes almost 20 years (from Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier to the Voting Rights Act passing.) Sometimes 20 minutes (Pearl Harbor.) And just about every interval in between. But if at least six-tenths of us want something, we almost always get it. And for better or worse, the change lasts generations. It needs to be fast and for better this time.