New Laws not National Conversations

It is the normal course for politicians and national leaders to call for a national conversation on race in America when a racially infused incident occurs. The call has become filler with no real intention of being carried out. What would such a conversation look like?  What would it accomplish? Nothing. Americans are having conversations on race every day but not across race, not engaging in those uncomfortable confrontations that we hope might lead to the real change. We do not need conversations on race. We need new laws.

In the face of the slayings of two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN by police officers, the problem of racially motivated violence against blacks by police is again in the headlines. When President Obama addressed these killings, it was obvious he wasn’t talking to black people. He was trying to convince whites that these killings were wrong, essentially saying that black lives matter. He quickly assured law enforcement that they were honored, celebrated, and appreciated for the work they did daily. The president’s quick pivot to celebrating law enforcement was telling. After peaceful protests in Dallas, a lone gunman, Micah Johnson, fired on police, killing 5 officers and injuring others. The shooter was black and he expressed anger at the recent shootings and the desire to kill white people and officers as his motivation. This disturbed individual’s horrific act was a deadly exclamation point on this week. Violence is never the answer.

It has always been the job of black folks to justify their right to keep their lives, not to be killed. Unfortunately, this sort of explaining is still required even when videos clearly show the victim powerless, non-threatening, and in many cases dying while the police officer brandishes a gun and fails to render in aid. The only way this will begin to stop is if the bar is lowered for prosecution of these police. Currently, it is too difficult to get a conviction when a police officer kills while on duty. That needs to change. There needs to be meaningful gun reform in this country. The paralyzing hold the NRA has on politicians stands in the way of this reform. This needs to change. National conversations won’t work.