“Black lives matter!” is the cry that came out of Ferguson, Missouri, when white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed a young unarmed black man, Michael Brown. “Burn it down!” shouted the victim’s stepfather. Ferguson erupted in flames. Rioting, looting and rock-throwing ensued. The cops were accused of being racists.
When the flames died out, many local businesses were destroyed, and some will never be rebuilt. These businesses employed many neighborhood folks who now have no job.
Ferguson fueled distrust of police officers in black neighborhoods around the country and more riots, more burning, more violence against the police, and more demands to charge police officers with crimes, including murder.
As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. Six officers have been charged with crimes in Baltimore. The police have gotten the message loud and clear and have backed off. The results have been disastrous. Murder rates have skyrocketed. Where’s the outrage now? Where’s the cry “black lives matter” when dozens, even hundreds of black youth will be murdered because of how these communities treated the local police? In Baltimore, murder rates are now at record highs.
For decades, police officers around the country have been willing to put their lives on the line to protect law-abiding citizens in crime-infested neighborhoods. But what many are not willing to do is to become targets of hate, violence and the possibility that they will be drummed out of their chosen professions in disgrace, risking their reputation and possible imprisonment for doing the jobs that they were trained to do.
Darren Wilson was drummed out of his job. But when the smoke cleared and the facts were presented, after all that rioting, looting, burning and cries that “black lives matter,” no local, federal or civil charges were pursued. The whole episode is a tragedy.
Black lives do matter, and in order to save the hundreds of black lives that will surely be lost because the police have backed off, leaders in this country need to find the reset button and beg police officers to resume protecting these neighborhoods as they know best.
Policing often looks ugly. Cops sometimes make mistakes. But they are saving lives in crime-ridden neighborhoods every day. Black, white, red or yellow, all lives matter!
As one who works every day to improve the lives of all of our children, especially those from poor neighborhoods, I know we need to find a better way to communicate. I, for one, want a serious conversation on race.
Fred Bramante is a past chairman and member of the NH State Board of Education. Fred speaks and consults on education redesign.