BLACK LIVES (DO) MATTER / My Story – Part Four – Today’s Landscape
Back in the early to mid-1970s in Dallas County, there were very few Black lawyers practicing criminal law, probably no more than 6 and maybe less. That has changed. There are now many Black law students in Texas and there are many capable Black lawyers practicing criminal and civil law in Texas. Ironically, Dallas County even elected a Black District Attorney. There are now many Black police officers and the Chief of the Dallas Police Department has been relatively “progressive” in reforming his department. Similar changes have occurred in most major Texas cities. Police Chief Art Acevedo in Houston has been very proactive in trying to reform the Houston Police Department.
There are now many more highly educated and successful Black professionals, educators, managers and CEOs. Looking at the top, it looks like progress is being made, but Blacks lag far behind whites in education, wages, housing and wealth accumulation, and are far more likely to be incarcerated. It is, in my opinion, impossible to explain these discrepancies through non-racial evidence.
I would like to believe that racism will end as my generation exits the stage, but that seems unlikely in view of the rise of white supremacists, obviously racist state legislation intended to discourage and suppress voting, gerrymandering of voting districts, court cases aimed at dismantling voting protections and affirmative action initiatives, attacks upon the social safety net and public education, the worst economic inequality ever, and the obvious popularity of Trump’s racism. We have made progress, yet no honest person can say we are anywhere close to where we need to be.
The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013 as a response to the murder of Trayveon Martin, an unarmed 17 year old who did nothing wrong other than walk through a white neighborhood in a hoodie. The murder of George Floyd has become the most recent symbol of the mistreatment of Blacks while in police custody. George Floyd’s murder is remarkable primarily due to its brazenness and unambiguous clarity. BLM has grown to include complaints about unfair sentencing, “mass incarceration” of Blacks, prison conditions and prison violence, and a whole host of social and economic issues. In many ways, it often seems we are right back in the Civil Rights Era, but there is a major difference. Millions of whites now agree with the movement and every major sports league, every major university, and most of America’s major businesses agree with the movement. Even television advertising is trying to capitalize upon the groundswell of public opinion.
There are tell-tale clues about the attitude of whites toward BLM and racism in general. I have come to believe that if a white person says “all lives matter” or that “white lives matter”, which are statements indicating denial and/or deflection, that person is almost guaranteed to be resistant to, sometimes virulently so, the complaints of Black people. Other sure signs are describing protests as riots; describing protestors as rioters, thieves, looters, arsonists, criminals, anarchists or ANTIFA; saying that the aim of the BLM movement is the violent overthrow of the government; saying that the BLM movement intends to abolish police departments; or, quoting anything that Trump or Fox News have said about the BLM movement. All of these are strong indicators that the person speaking them has stopped listening and is no longer interested in even hearing, much less giving serious consideration to, what the BLM movement is really about. The people who say these things are interested only in denying that racism exists rather than accepting that it does and doing something about it. A closed mind is always dangerous. For so long as we won’t listen to each other, talk at each other or in anger, talk past each other, and talk only to people who agree with us, we won’t have a peaceful or an equitable society. We will live in the continual strife that is the inevitable byproduct of racism. The human and financial cost to our country is beyond comprehension and it is totally unnecessary.