MARLBORO MUSINGS: Charlotte A Tipping Point…For Good?

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Another cop and citizen confrontation. Another shooting. Another black man dies and another city and community explodes in outrage. This time just up the road, in Charlotte.

That made it kinda personal, to me, and especially heart-wrenching, and infuriating, to watch as over a couple of nights, despite the fact that both individuals involved were men of color and the basic circumstances surrounding the event were still uncertain – Did he have a gun? Was it only a book? — “protests” over the shooting escalated into frighteningly criminal activities.

Protesting even perceived civil injustices is one thing, but the looting of stores, malicious cases of extreme vandalism, indiscriminate gross property destruction, attacks on vehicles and the blocking of highways, as well as random acts of violence, particularly against innocents who had no role in the events, are not acts of “protest,” they are more along the lines of rioting at best, mixed with a twist of anarchy, but criminal, nonetheless, under any circumstances.

And what we saw in Charlotte was sad. It breaks one’s spirit a little to see people so enraged that tear gas has to be used to disperse them, that the National Guard has to be called out to provide the kind of backup support to local law enforcement needed to ensure that streets remain safe, that a curfew is required in order to maintain control.

I feel like the nation is getting tired of these episodes of lawlessness, and I fear the almost-eventual happenstance where an event intensifies beyond it’s original scope simply due to the armed reactions of someone to a “protest” activity, and things really get ugly and out of hand. But if we aren’t able to provide protection to property owners – like those of business owners in Charlotte, or Ferguson, or Baltimore, then they will eventually begin to protect themselves. And in an already heated and tense environment, the last thing we need in this country is armed civilian confrontation. That’s where the Thin Blue Line of law enforcement comes in to save us all.

But they need our support also. Now, I’m not smart enough to know the how’s and what not’s of the matter, and I don’t suppose you ever really stay ahead of the technological curve these days, but I don’t see why we don’t have body cameras on every uniformed law enforcement officer working a shift, dash-cams in every police vehicle, and, for the sake of much-needed transparency in police-related shootings, a set Department of Justice policy that governs the timely access to and public release of those collected images, while also protecting the officer’s rights, so that the facts of a case become known as soon as possible, hopefully preventing actions taken based upon a misrepresentation of the facts of a particular incident.

Furthermore, we also need to establish a national standard that establishes a firm line against anarchical behavior, basically ensuring that the right to peaceful protesting is absolutely secured, even encouraged, supported, and protected, perhaps by those being protested, but also makes clear that if you break a law, or even a window, you go to jail, or if you pull a gun, so does the police, and that they will try to shoot first. Period. The good and safety of the public must be a top priority.

Now, that said, we all have our differences and, if we’re honest with ourselves and each other, we have to accept that we live in a cold and hard world, full of unfairness. You’d have to be an idiot, an imbecile or just plain head-in-the-sand ignorant to not admit that there are inequalities and inequities that have existed for a long time and still exist yet to this day. And they have the capacity to breed hostility. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is either blind or a fool.

Simply put, there is a double standard; some people have advantages and benefits while others suffer disadvantages and discrimination. Not just based upon their race, but also because of their social standing, or athletic prowess, or the potential economic opportunities they may offer, or any other of a dozen reasons.

Regardless, it’s up to us to cast those aside and move forward as one. And it can be done.

Charleston proved it.

You remember the riots and turmoil in the low country just over a year ago following the Charleston church massacre at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, “Mother Emanuel,” when a white gunman killed nine black members, including senior pastor and state senator Clementa C, Pinckney, and wounded a tenth, right? No? Oh, that’s right, because there weren’t any. Instead that community gathered as one — black, white, yellow, and brown — and prayed for each other – and our future – and showed the nation how South Carolina pulls together, handles hurt, and grows from it.

And oddly enough, that same opportunity might exist yet again. For as disheartening as the events in Charlotte were to watch unfold, I noticed something as they did: the biggest and most unified crowds were the ones walking in daylight, arm-in-arm, the ones who came out to support their brothers and sisters because they realize that we are all in this together, the ones who recognize that calm heads and understanding and dialogue are critical to effecting lasting positive change. The ones who answer slugs and thugs with hugs.

It’s a sad fact of life: haters are going to hate. But the good news is there’s a lot more of us than there are of them. And with a love for one another, we will prevail.

Maybe, just maybe, Charlotte will mark the turning of the tide.

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