Discrimination exists. Racism, sexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, and every other “ism” that separates people into groups exist.
And, so grouped, in some instances, some people experience reduced privilege. In some instances some people experience reduced rights. In some instances some people experience violence and sadly, sometimes some grouped people experience mass reduction in rights and privilege and violence. This is a fact of the society and of the world in which we live. It exists across and within systems. It exists in schools, government agencies, businesses and communities. It exists in religious institutions and ideologies, in genders, and it exists in cultures. It is not representative of all, however, and it is absurd or perhaps vitriolic to promote the belief that such narrow-minded ideas are representative.
Any attempt at scapegoating will not change this fact of human existence that discrimination exists. Any attempt at scapegoating serves to further divide and impedes the process of promoting change.
When mob mentality exists and is allowed to flourish unchecked and “peaceful protest” becomes chants for violence and death, and protections are not put into place by those in power, those in power become culpable because those calls for violence, left unchecked, will foreseeably become actions, actions against the defined, scapegoated group.
Yes, there is blood on many hands. Yes there is responsibility of elected officials to act responsibly regarding ALL persons they represent. Scapegoating does not solve the problems of discrimination. Scapegoating furthers them by allowing frustration, sadness and unfettered hate to be directed at a group, a group held apart in some way by the rest of society, often, a group which has little power to create and enforce change.
All cops aren’t racists or bullies. All people of color aren’t criminals. All protestors aren’t violent and do not incite hate. Some do however, and that is what needs to be addressed. That is what cannot be tolerated. That is what can’t be institutionally supported or promoted by “leaders” ignoring outright aggression and violence against the scapegoated group and placing the rights of one group over the rights of others.
Vilifying an entire profession for a systemic, universal problem is discriminatory and to deny it as discriminatory is untenable. How can one group allow and perhaps even participate in protests calling for violence and death not see the hypocrisy in this, not see how it undermines the cause purportedly being protested?
You cannot change a system flaw or a societal problem by directing hate at police. You change the system by legal recourse, by writing and passing laws, by encoding unifying practices and eradicating systemic injustices.
Then however, even so, you cannot police and legislate the hearts and minds of individual human beings. You can only codify rules that promote the good of the majority. You cannot force acceptance amongst and between groups by rage filled acting out. We can all only each individually try and understand each other and listen with open hearts and minds not blinded and divided by those that would rather preach hate and separatism.
To allow, dignify and encourage, by passive aggressive incendiary remarks, the promotion of foreseeable violence, is to be culpable. To act as New York’s mayor did, when publicly decrying fear for his son because of possible police interaction is to bring to a public forum passive aggressive incendiary feelings pitting him and his perceived fears of potential racial bias against the police department of the city he and that department serve, to create a divide between the institution of the police department and the people of the city ignoring that the police department is as diverse and robust as the city of New York is itself.
That culpability is what garners distrust and erodes respect. That culpability is what widens the divide. That culpability is how poor leadership is demonstrated.
To ignore the rule of law, ignoring the jury process and grand jury process, to scapegoat and direct negative comments at and about the police department instead of speaking to individual incidents and ignoring the many overriding excellent interactions between citizens and police personnel, to globalize racism as inherent in a police department as diverse as the NYPD instead of speaking to known facts and ignoring speculation, the mayor added fuel to a fire which is currently burning more brightly than at any time in recent memory.
Leaders are supposed to unify, support, and deescalate, not alienate and incite violence. Leaders are supposed to uphold the rule of law and seek appropriate recourse for problems which exist. Leaders are supposed to be inclusive and problem solving not decisive, incendiary and contemptuous of a diverse group of men and women who jeopardize their lives on a daily basis for the safety and well-being of the larger society.
If people are unhappy with gun laws, protest those with the power to change the law. If people are unhappy with the legal system, protest that system and those that have the power to change it. If people truly wish to make meaningful change, make your concerns heard in a way that can impact meaningful change. To blame “the police” and single out specific police precincts as somehow responsible for racism, gun laws and gun violence, flaws in the justice system, capitalism, and every other perceived wrong only serves to impede meaningful dialogue and strides made toward understanding and equality.
#wordsmatter #respectmatters #understandingmatters #alllivesmatter
By: Michelle Sicignano, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer
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I am quite shocked and disappointed that this article was published on this site.
I think this author misses the point about discrimination and privilege.
The author talks about how some are treated unfairly and that if they are they should protest those in power. I can only assume by the words she wrote, that she believes the protests are about vilifying the police. I think she needs to take a closer look and check out what they are calling for. They are in fact, asking for systemic changes to how policing is done. They are in fact, bringing light to the fact that people of color are disproportionatly targeted by law enforcement, and when an encounter takes place, are more likely to end up harmed or dead when compared to their white counterparts.
The author then goes on to say that the mayor was culpable in the recent and terrible assassination of two police officers, because he empathized with the community that was impacted by the grand jury decision. The decision that further eroded the trust that the community and system should have. I can only assume the author believes the mayor should have said the system did its best and we should all respect that.
Instead, this mayor talked about his personal experiences and how he has an understanding of what families and communities of color face because he has to have the same conversations with his children. Would it have been better if the mayor were black? I would think not, because I suspect people would cry that the mayor played the race card.
I see no scapegoating of the police. What I see are people asking for systemic changes. This is not about a person or persons. It is about the system. It is about legislative change.
This author also paints a picture of the protests with her use of quotation marks (“peaceful protests”). Most protests have been peaceful. Yes, there is a fringe that used violent rhetoric. This was not and is not supported by those organizing and has been denounced. This author seems to be guilty of what she is speaking against, which is vilifying an entire group for the actions of a few.
I also think the author should re-examine her understanding of institutional and systemic racism before making statements that appear to condemn the notion that racism exists in the NYPD, or any other government institution.
One final thought. This author makes several assertions about what leaders are supposed to do. She leaves out one important aspect of leadership. Recognize when something is wrong, bring light to it and work to fix it.
So to use one of the hash tags used by this author, #wordsmatter