Let's Help Make Black Lives Matter MATTER
10 Things America Needs to Do
"Walking between the pools of light cast by the street lights, some of them broken, I saw the group of them from a block away, just hanging out, joking and jostling each other. In a dark patch I crossed the street just to be on the safe side. One of them noticed and they all stopped and stared, their heads rising like wolves testing the breeze for the scent of potential prey. The tallest one said something and two of them broke from the pack and meandered across to my side of the road, one putting a hand to the small of his back, the other digging one deep into a pocket."
Who is black in that anecdote? Who is white, yellow, brown, gay or trans? Does colour change anything in the story for the teller? Is the narrator 'blue,' a cop? Off duty? On duty? Does that change anything, substantially, in the story?
The cold reality in America today is that guns are as easy to get as smartphones. That cold reality is what the police face every moment of every day.
Another cold reality is that, from the moment that humans got smart enough to band together instead of erring on the side of caution and scattering in the face of a mortal threat, the most dangerous risk any human faced was a more numerous group of humans. What empowered our species to come to dominate the planet was 'tribalism' (otherwise known as 'racism' and the root of 'nationalism'). It is permanently and indelibly hardwired into each and every human brain.
Familiarization with those 'not of our tribe' reduces the power of our instinctive tribalism over our reactions, but it never goes away. And tribalism is not exclusive to whites -- it is true of every tribe out there, although education and higher IQ seems to diminish its control over many individuals.
Recognizing these two points of today's reality, which I'll come back to:
What's the Smallest First Step BLM Has to Make to Succeed?
Black lives automatically matter less if you don't first acknowledge that Blue-Black Lives Matter just a bit more than All Lives Matter.
I'm not being 'cute': if the black community does not first and foremost stand up for the safety of black cops ("Blue-Black Lives"), the claim that black Americans are faced with racism that systematically disadvantages them (places their lives in disproportionate jeopardy to that of others) is at best counter-productive, at worst not in their own best interests. Communities are successful only when we police our own people, protecting each other from injury, injustice and property theft. If black cops tell you that they are more nervous about concealed weapons being drawn on them in their own community than in many others, then we can all begin to understand the knee-jerk, 'self-defense through offense' reactions of any cop in a similar situation where they are scared that a suspect may be going into his vehicle or his pocket, against the cops' specific instructions, to get a firearm.
The police have an EXTREMELY dangerous job in a country with more freely available weapons than there are citizens, and they're on high alert any time there's a confrontation, whether that's entirely justified or not. Add to this the fact that 911 calls come in SEVEN TIMES MORE in predominantly black areas and you have seven times the likelihood of high risk altercations taking place, regardless of what colour the police are.
Perception is not always reality and we don't like it when our most emotionally charged perceptions are proven false. The reality is that statistics prove that black men are NOT shot at a higher rate by white police than white men are, despite the impression that we're left with from media exposure. Racism on the part of white cops towards black civilians, outside of some 'bad actors,' is not the principal cause for needles deaths of black Americans; poverty, public education funding through property taxes and 'The War on Drugs' are.
Living in poor neighbourhoods is the highest risk factor for getting into dangerous altercations for people of any colour. In these depressed areas crime may seem to be a good way to solve one's poverty and the quality of public education is low offering less opportunities to lift oneself out of poverty, regardless of ability and interest in doing so, living conditions that are so miserable that taking drugs becomes a viable 'medication' for one's mental health issues and funding for social services like mental health treatment is at a minimum. If the system that sets up the causes for unequal outcomes is not addressed, then the poverty, and subsequent risk of death from criminals and police altercations, will never be reduced.
"Defund the Police!" Means "Increase Social Support!"
The 'systemic racism' in America lies in the fact that black communities continue to face profound inequality, not in the fact that more crime takes place in their neighbourhoods, per se. To fix that problem we don't need less police, we need more health care, better social welfare support (a universal basic income, NOT more welfare for single mothers) and a vastly improved public school system across all American communities. Using the overly provocative phrase "DEFUND THE POLICE!" detracts from the real message: "INCREASE SOCIAL SUPPORT!" (and fund it by reinstating progressive taxes on the rich). Decreasing the amount of blue-blacks (and blues in general) in their own communities will only lead to the kind of mayhem and instability that holds the citizens of these areas further back in the competition we call life.
If we begin to place the 'right to zero-harm' for every citizen, including the criminals that exist throughout humanity, whether they are white collar criminals, grey collar criminals, blue collar criminals, or criminals whose full-time job is criminality, above that of the blues (the police), then civilization erodes very quickly into mayhem. Civilization can only exist based upon mutually agreed-to regulations and laws that are enforced by a publicly funded and trusted police force and a judicial system that is fair overall.
It is this lack of overall, across-the-board fairness, the current inequality of treatment evidenced by the incarceration rate of poor and black people in the US (especially poor black males from fatherless homes), as well as the lack of gainful employment that drives poor people into miserable lives that lead to drug use and crime, that is currently under debate. However, it is the underlying system, NOT the enforcers of the system, that needs reform. Simpletons of every stripe look at the most obvious, superficial symptom and claim that THAT is what needs changing, without understanding where the issues that cause the overall problem really lie. Allow me to address those issues...
Black Lives Matter: What's the Real Goal of the Movement?
Momentous 'movements' only change history when their aim is clear and the goal is simple. Either that, or, if the goal is complex and the steps numerous, the movement needs a powerful, central voice to coordinate and direct the movement's direction, step by step to achieve its ultimate goal.
Black Lives Matter simply doesn't matter if it has no clear and actionable goal that 'the movement' is aiming to achieve. "End systemic racism" SOUNDS like just what America needs to improve the lives of many of its underclass, but a problem cannot be addressed if the meaning of its stated goal is unclear, or is far too complex to ever be achieved by simply shouting the goal over and over again. In the same vein, demanding worthwhile, straightforward, social changes that unfortunately fail to address the roots of the underlying problems are just 'half measures,' such as shifting funding away from ever more militarized policing (e.g. "Defund the Police!") toward more social support issues like addressing inadequate mental health programs. The enforcers are a symptom, the laws -- from 'The War on Drugs' to financing schooling through local property taxes -- are the cause of the problem.
Once slavery was abolished in America, but not until electricity was available in most homes (outside of those households wealthy enough to employ servants), women were the de facto 'household work force,' they were the largely invisible 'engine under the hood.' The Suffragette Movement that brought about the right to vote for white women (voting rights for black citizens in America didn't come to pass until much later) could not have come about until women began to be freed from household chores by electrical appliances. The success of the effort to win voting rights for women only came about once the cause of the problem of women being stuck at home 24/7; washing clothes in a tub, hauling water, churning butter, hand-sewing clothing, etc., was addressed. This continues to be the single biggest barrier to female emancipation in developing world countries (if women are out of sight -- even more so if they are all encased in black bags -- they are out of mind).
To solve a problem we cannot focus on the symptoms. The causes of the problem must first be addressed. The underlying root cause for women not having the right to vote was not simply brutish male egos, it was a fundamental lack of power. Without having salaries to contribute to the household income, without being out in the workforce in sufficient numbers to be seen as a force to be reckoned with, without the freedom to interact in the wider world outside of the home, women were powerless and could be ignored. Black and brown voices today face a similar challenge. Until the system that underlies their lack of power is changed and they are free and welcomed to ENTER the world outside of their neighbourhoods, they will be ignored by the same lawmakers that ignore the poor white voices demanding universal healthcare.
The ultimate goal of the BLM Movement MUST be changes to the laws that make up the system at its roots, NOT attempting to eliminate racism, whether in law enforcement or in the larger world. Black and brown lives only begin to matter to the wealth-hoarders at the top when their power is threatened as was the case with the women's rights movement after the introduction of universal electricity: suddenly fully 51% (the former 'silent majority') were free to spend more time interacting with men outside of the home. The women in that movement were not demanding equal outcomes, they were demanding equal opportunity. That's a key benchmark for BLM to keep in mind if the movement is going to have any real long-term impact:
The fight is only winnable if it is for equal opportunity, NOT equal outcome.
"Systemic Racism" is Not Racism
"Systemic racism" means various things to the many and diverse participants in this growing movement. Definitions range from 'fixing the clearly unjust justice system,' to 'giving the underclass a leg up through improved education,' to 'equal outcomes for all, regardless of effort, ability, experience, or merit'. Other notions include 'ending police use of leathal violence against people of colour' (with the assumption that it is statistically true that it is disproportionate, although it is true of 'getting roughed up' according to study in the US), to 'hand out large sums of cash to the descendants of former slaves' (with the built-in assumption that such windfalls would NOT go the way that most windfalls do without first instituting broad and deep education about the nuts and bolts of long-term investment) and even 'erase racism (tribalism) from humankind's hardwiring' (which would involve re-writing our genetic code -- see paragraphs 4 & 5 above).
The Women's Suffrage Movement had a single goal: allow women to vote. Achieving that simple first goal opened up the Women's Rights Movement that followed, much to the betterment of the lives of 51% of the human population in developed countries over the ensuing decades.
The Anti-Slavery Movement had a clear and actionable simple goal: free the slaves. Sadly, the door was left open for those who opposed the movement to come up with innumerable subtle and manipulative ways to continue to benefit from the nearly free labour of black Americans, especially the men, by incarcerating them for a myriad of trivial, double-standard reasons and making the length of those imprisonments arbitrarily long. This was taken up another notch by making the prison system for-profit, incentivizing those at the top to increase the volume of imprisonment by increasing the number of crimes related to being poor in the first place (the War on Drugs').
Further, an intangible barrier to upward mobility was cemented into place by funding public schools from property taxes, thus ensuring that anyone living in poor areas would grow up within a very effective 'Poverty Trap' that would keep poor kids from getting a sufficiently high quality of education that they would graduate 'at parity' with kids from wealthier areas. The ceiling to attaining wealth was raised by well-meaning, but disastrous 'social welfare for single mothers' programs which have seen young black males who don't have fathers at home being manipulated by criminals in their neighbourhoods to join in and ultimately become incarcerated in their tens of thousands across America. Felony conviction laws then make it nearly impossible for those who emerge from prison to land meaningful work, pushing them back into crime and prison (and working inside, essentially, as slaves for profit-making corporations owned by they rich, which is an underlyng reason why American prisons house so many black men disproportionately).
The REAL Challenge
Without a clear understanding, among the majority, of exactly what the issues are that are causing inequality in American and around the world, we cannot solve complex problems like Systemic Racism (there, I've finally capitalized the concept). A HUGE barrier to doing so is that the vast majority of our human population are not endowed with the ability to assimilate all of the information necessary to address the challenges, much less the ability to understand the roots and inter-connectivity of complex issues and then generate creative, effective solutions.
The majority can raise their voices in protest, but cannot offer up meaningful and effective solutions to the underlying causes of inequality without the leadership of some much more clever-than-average leaders. The solution the mass of protestors are currently offering up, as best I can parse it, is "White people are racist! They have more money than blacks and browns do and they should give a bunch of it to us!" Certainly the rich are currently enjoying ever-less taxation and staggering wealth-hoarding, and that hoarded cash will eventually go a long way to funding the steps necessary to fix the underlying problems (simply starting with making all public schools across America of equally high quality), but cash hand outs that get frittered away will not solve anything long-term. The only way to redistribute wealth that has ever proven effective is the system that the Nordic countries have had in place for many decades: Democratic Social Capitalism.
Taking action against injustice, against unfairness, is not only essential to improving the human condition, it is the 'right thing' to do for the majority of us who feel morality in a tangible way, who 'sense' the weight of it in our lives. I was reminded of this in re-listening to Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins discussing the scientific basis of human morality on YouTube. Morality is not simply a concept to be embraced or debated, it is a product of our unique human consciousness and a foundational building block for human civilization. Without our hardwired morality (religion is a just a manipulation of that hardwiring, a chance for a few to lord it over the rest of us and bilk us out of some tithes) there would be no cooperation, no civility, no society for us to live productively and peacefully within.
We Hate Change!
We hate change, especially in the short-term. Some of us much more than others (we call them Conservatives). This is also an integral part of the human condition. It cautions us to NOT 'fix what isn't broken' and thus helps us to survive to live another day. (I'm always speaking from the point of view of most of our species' existence: the 7,000,000 years we survived since our split from our common ancestor with the chimps, not the 0.1% that we have lived in cities -- what I call our 7,000 year-old 'New Normal.' The circumstances we live in today are most certainly NOT what our species evolved to thrive in most naturally.)
If it had always proven wise to have one tribe member stay up all night to maintain a fire burning at the cave entrance to dissuade sabre-toothed tigers and cave bears from coming in to snack on us, experimenting instead with hanging a bunch of dry sticks on a length of cat gut to rattle together to wake us up if an intruder entered the cave probably wasn't a wise innovation. Those individuals who were 'hardwired for Conservatism' back in the day either won out and the fire-tending tradition was maintained instead of the 'trip-wire' innovation, or there were no survivors of that tribe.
In the LONG-TERM, the progressive innovation of the 'trip wire' helped ensure the survival of the tribe willing to allow the inventor to install it at the back of the cave, where a larger group from a competing tribe could sneak in through the cave system and kill the males and make off with the women and children. While Conservatives fight change (and dream of a return to the bygone fantasy of a better life in the past) in the short-term, they benefit in the long-term from progress. Grandma did NOT want to use her new iPad, at least not until she realized she could watch her grand-kids growing up from afar.
One thing is true of our 'New Normal' and that is that civilization has only flourished over time due to progress. Time and again civilizations of humankind grew and prospered only on the back of Progressivism: innovation that improved the lot of the majority through mutual cooperation. It is only through Progressivism that our cities can grow ever larger, that our ability to feed a human population that is on course to destroy the planet by its ever-increasing volume, is possible. Only by making constant progress can we figure out how to live in peace, rather than tearing each others' throats out due to our hardwiring for irrational tribalism.
In other words, it is only through Progressivism, NOT Conservatism, that humanity can survive in our 'New Normal.'
Make Black Lives Matter MATTER!
Stop blaming 'those not of our tribe' for your tribes' problems (whether your tribe is political, cultural, or colour-based) and get busy doing the effective things that will lead to real change:
1. Stop protesting in the streets! (It really doesn't make much PRACTICAL change happen other than satisfying our inherent love of chanting and marching together in large crowd while patting ourselves on the back and reveling in self-righteous moral outrage.) Put that same energy and investment of time into non-stop emailing, phoning and letter-writing to your Congressional and Senate representatives. They fear losing their seats and they'll listen to well-reasoned arguments and straightforward solutions that will have real impact if the messages come in large quantities. (Due to the fact that America really has only one party that is controlled by the wealth-hoarders, it may be that nothing will happen fast, but if Bernie Sanders can repeat the same exact policy demands for 50 years and finally gets a groundswell under him, another movement can ride that wave!)
2. Organize reasoned, fact-based (leave the tribal emotions outside) meetings in your living rooms and town halls to come up with REAL, actionable, effective solutions to chip away at the underlying causes, like providing financial incentives like a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to fathers/stepfathers who stick around to parent kids in poor neighbourhoods.
3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Educate yourself about the real causes of Systemic Racism and what can be done to change things, or at least allow those leaders among you who can explain the REAL causes (not simply manipulate your emotions to gain power for themselves) to lead (think: The Squad, Tulsi Gabbard and Bernie).
4. Get back to acknowledging and respecting high 'Fluid IQ,' merit-based advancement (equal opportunity, NOT equal outcome), higher education and respect for science and data, as demonstrated by AOC, the Obamas, Pelosi, McCain, deGrasse Tyson, Sowell and many more on both sides of the debate, but don't accept any 'notions' or 'opinions' about policies that have no historical proof of having worked effectively (Democratic Social Capitalism has been WINNING in the Nordic countries for decades).
5. Fund the Police! Ensure that more funding is going to individual police salaries, rather than hiring more police officers so that really smart people begin taking on the jobs, rather than the 'bad apples' who can't find higher paying jobs and end up hired by desperate municipalities.
6. Increase social support! If there's funding to be found by cutting money ear-marked for the police to buy more military equipment, great, but America has a bottomless pit of funding for anything its citizens really need, its called The Federal Reserve. They just push buttons to create zero interest money to bail out billionaires, corporations and the profit-making of the Military-Industrial Complex. They can do the same for infrastructure and out-of-work Americans. Just say to to "PAYGO" -- it never applies to bail-outs!
7. Push for an end to property tax funding of public education. All schooling in America needs to be federally funded at the same level everywhere and all teachers need to get paid the same, substantial wage to encourage the really smart people to take on the jobs. In areas where it's clear that kids are chronically under-performing, change the system: bring in tutorial programs that target the most challenged kids, do more field trips and outdoor teaching the way they do in Finland, end the ancient standardized testing and customize for each type of kid.
8. End "The War on Drugs"! Addiction is a deep and insidious problem for human brains. It is a disease, not a 'lifestyle choice,' whether the addiction is to food, gambling, sun-tanning, or drugs. Marijuana is legal in Europe and Canada because it is just like alcohol -- a tax-collecting BONANZA! (And pardon every single criminal conviction based upon the old laws.)
9. Get out and vote! and work tirelessly to convince your family, friends, neighbours and every young person you come into contact with to vote too! Trump won simply because less people voted, and suppressing the vote is the GOP's go-to strategy for 2020.
10. Lastly, end "Citizens United." That single corruption by the Supreme Court effectively ended the "American Democratic Experiment" by using common human greed to corrupt every single politician on both sides of America's single-party/two-colours Neo-liberal system. No founder of America ever would have bastardized the Constitution by claiming that a profit-making corporation should be treated as a human citizen of the United States of America. Most politicians are now trapped by their common greed within the corporate lobbying cash hand-out system to both fund their campaigns and line their pockets.
I have been blogging and vlogging about insights into why we humans do the so-often counter-productive things we do, and how we can turn things around to live our lives to the fullest (the real meaning of life!) for over a decade. Check out more thoughts and insights at:
- YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfi00q5yaQ0nK8wXkEbvk3Q/
- Support my efforts: https://www.patreon.com/JustOneCynicsOpinion?fan_landing=true
This piece was first published on JustOneCynicsOpinion.Blogspot.com on Sept. 7, 2020 by the author (© Kevin J. Lenard 2020). Not to be used in whole or in part without attribution.