COMMENTARY

The Dialogue — Black Lives Matter?

There are some things that being right about an outcome is not cause for celebration or even consolation. Those same things if you are wrong may even delight or reassure that you are not subjected to or a candidate for the certainty of fate. But, if being right is not to your advantage, and being wrong has you giving praise, what advice can you share such that the beacon that guides you to safety can be there for me also?

The idea that your confinement to an inglorious place is painful, sad as that is, is not divorced from someone benefiting or thinking that his or her freedom is assured by your unfavorable outcomes when you are right. For being right means you are dead wrong and being wrong means today is your lucky day.

There is a saying,” Sleep on the same side you slept on last night;” whenever one escapes from a situation that is routinely weighted towards disaster. The template for escape, if that’s what it is, carries the risk that next time being wrong is predestined, not on what you do but on the need for your legal jeopardy to be prioritized with prejudice to satisfy personal and public policy. Any escape on your part, discretion, or intervention of superiors aside, is itself an infraction. 

Being right while being in the wrong is contradictory. But what if public policy requires that even as you pay for public services that others enjoy, you are a prohibited person for those services, do you want to be right about that?

The issues we face lead to questions, about fairness, justice, and the prohibition of persons by laws, regulations and agents of government such that public policy nurtures grief, mourning, relegation, and discrimination. Is this the best we can do?

Do we need to persecute and prosecute the poor and marginalized to live substandard lives so that others can indulge their feelings of superiority, and is it smart public policy to separate a prohibited class from their confidence to achieve those narrow gains?

What stains we ask others to wear so that we can be clean, or burdens forced on their hurting frustrating backs so that our paths and status are never in doubt even as theirs are made uncertain, is clever without being smart. There is much wrong with a policy, public or private, where your gain must be at the expense of my loss, or your fears for your life is enough justification to end mine because I question the premise of our inequality.

The challenge is for our agents of the state to answer each call as if they are putting their lives on the line to defend the very person they must engage, serve, and protect. That is public policy to which we can all swear allegiance. If we do otherwise, public policy is being hijacked to reflect you as collateral damage as you are served and protected.  That is crazy logic that should not have seen the light of day, more over become public policy. The cost in lives devastated is not inconsequential.

We cannot be right about the devastation to be endured by being less than equal in anybody’s eyes, including ours. Forcing anyone to concede their possibilities or only achieve them by crawling through humiliation is a risky proposition that requires more force and resources that we can ill afford. It is inefficient, breeds confrontation, and requires more holding pens. In the quest to repress a prohibited people- prohibited by someone else’s prejudice- we run counter to the idea that distinguishes us: all men are created equal.

The dialogue isn’t about Black Lives Matter, though it will become a powder keg, or Blue Lives Matter with implicit threat to use lethal force if they feel threatened. That is an “us against them” policy. It is bad public policy, and it inherently delivers mass incarceration, grief, insecurity and retards social mobility and cohesiveness among peoples who have long endured inequalities that should not be our hallmark or our Achilles heel.

Being right about that demands to be corrected. That template should serve us well so that we have expectations aligned with our dreams for our sons and daughters, and if in the course of their duties to serve and protect us, we are not dead right and dead. The era of the surgery was successful, but the patient died, especially when the surgery was not an emergency, cannot continue to be celebrated. 

What next? Police with bayonets affixed to facilitate our peaceful marches and protests being treated as lesser mortals?

Peter Peterkin, Readers Bureau, Fellow

Edited by Jesus Chan

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