July 27, 2020John Monaghan, Director of Partnerships, All Aces, Inc.
Rep. John Lewis
Advancing Racial Equity
All Aces, Inc.
I had the audacity to write BLACK LIVES MATTER on my facebook page.
It was actually a picture of a street with BLACK LIVES MATTER written on it. That’s when some old workmates decided to gang up on me and explain a few things. Apparently they think BLACK LIVES MATTER is a terrorist organization. And I quote “John, I can’t say I’m mad, but I’m really disappointed.” I read it and wondered if he’d been talking with my father, not the opinion part, but the quote. You see my father stood on picket lines as a young soldier and made sure young kids of color got to school safely. He helped his friends from the inner-city study on tests to get better positions and promotions in the Army. And he pulled funeral duty laying his brothers, of every color, to rest in the ground. To him BLACK LIVES MATTERED TOO. That’s how I grew up. I was no better than anyone else, just at times a little more fortunate.
Now, I know why these guys think the way they do. In 2015 at a BLACK LIVES MATTER rally in Minnesota, protesters chanted “pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon”. This laid the groundwork for a reason or an excuse to ignore the message that Black men and women were being killed unjustly by the police.
To seal the deal, during a 2016 BLACK LIVES MATTER rally in Dallas, a gunman shot and killed five police officers and injured nine others. He was not associated with BLM, but nonetheless that didn’t matter to you if you wore a badge. It bothered me. All of it. I had been reading and learning my whole life about social justice, about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and anyone else I could get my hands on that exemplified the fight against oppression. But this was different, because now there is social media. Camera crews didn’t need to rush to a scene to report in the aftermath, there was footage from everyday people like you and me about what happened. And it was ugly too.
As I continued my racial equity journey as well as in my career in Law Enforcement, I learned about the parts of my profession they don’t want you to know about. Like in 1619, the first enslaved Africans were forcibly brought to the United States. The first police agencies formed in the United States were in the South as slave patrols. The 1850’s Fugitive Slave Act in which the United States Government, specifically U.S. Marshals and their deputies, were responsible for finding, capturing and returning enslaved people to their alleged owners. Fortunately in 1864, congress banned slavery. However, in 1865 the 13th Amendment was ratified allowing for prison labor to be used. Thus was spawned the era of Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws, where Black men, women and children were arrested for anything and everything in order to fill the labor pool vacated by the end of slavery. This era was coupled by lynchings often held on court-yard lawns and ignored by the police. And the formation of the KKK in 1865, many of whose members were law enforcement by day and Klansmen by night. There was a great migration north to cities where it was believed opportunity lay, only to meet a new type of racism.
Black soldiers fought not only in the civil war such as the 54th regiment, but in World War I, II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and most recently Iraq and Afghanistan. The issue was that though many Black veterans returned home with the promise of equality, the reality was different. There was still segregation, certain universities wouldn’t accept students of color, the G.I. Bill was useless in the presence of redlining and unions wouldn’t allow people of color to join. That was until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s when African Americans who gathered in peaceful protest were met with fire hoses, billy clubs, and police dogs. As well as shootings, abductions, murders, and bombings. Fortunately with the passing of the Civil Rights Act, Fair Housing Act, and a belabored Fair Labor Act that finally included all in 1974. It appeared there was a hope for equity.
Phew, but then even though the wrong was stopped, neither was it made right. There were still wealth gaps, education gaps, health care, and food gaps. These problems still exist today. Add in the 1980’s “War on Drugs” where officers were encouraged to stop, question and frisk suspects in order to clean up the streets. Now when you incentivize a group of people to be successful, they’ll generally do what it takes—especially when caught in the middle of a widening wealth gap causing a disappearing middle class thanks to “trickle down economics” and all the Wall Street welfare to follow.
So to summarize—if cops get promoted by arresting people, they’re going to arrest people. If you get recognized by getting drugs and guns off the street, they’re going to get drugs and guns off the street. If you were born into a culture that has trained you to think of others as "less-than" after centuries of violating constitutional rights, and you’re plunked down into a culture that teaches you that violating people's rights is okay . . . well you might just do that too. And you might get away with it, until technology catches up.
When the news starts reporting things like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Oscar Grant, Walter Scott, Stephon Clark, Samuel DuBose, Alton Sterling, Jamar Clark, Terence Crutcher, Akai Gurley, Anthony Hill, Jeremy McDole, John Crawford III, Trayvon Martin, Eric Harris, Tony Robinson, Jonathan Sanders, and Michael Brown. You see after all this history of violence none of these deaths are an isolated incident, but that’s what cops want to believe because they don’t have to know the history. All this violence is what is called systemic racism. And I was kind of hoping we got it, but there is a patriarchy at play and it likes it’s power.
George Floyd died after 8 minutes and 46 seconds of a police officer kneeling on his neck. Breonna Taylor was shot while she slept in her bed and Elijah McClain was choked out while walking home from the store. So BLACK LIVES MATTER took to the street. They protested. And cops wrote “no one hates bad cops more than good cops” on their social media, some took a knee and a few marched. Here’s the thing: it's your First Amendment right to protest to redress grievances against the government.
So when all the people I just named had their Fourth Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure taken from them by the government (through a means also known as murder), people used their First Amendment rights to protest this. Unfortunately this constitutional right, in many cases, was met with rubber bullets and teargas, thereby violating their First Amendment right to peaceful protest.
So when I see the pockets of America that get it—that after 401 years since the first enslaved Africans were brought here and all the violence that has ensued against Black lives since. When I see a protest that results in a city that answers with a call to redress grievances, I have faith in the system because it just might work. And when I see BLACK LIVES MATTER written on streets across this country in acknowledgement of this, I celebrate. Perhaps the violence will end and I will do my part to ensure that this happens. The fact that it’s my former colleagues who profess to hate bad cops more than anyone else, who, in my opinion, have more responsibility than any other Americans to end unnecessary police violence, and I see that they not only won’t join me, but will admonish me for it, well, I guess I can say I’m not mad, but I’m really disappointed.
I hope you’ll excuse me. I need to go, and in the words of America’s Conscience—Representative John Lewis, “make some good trouble, some necessary trouble.”