By Puja

I call Dallas home. Last Thursday night was hell for a lot of people in the area. Not knowing if your family member or friend was OK;  Hearing that five Dallas Police Officers paid the ultimate price for the nation’s growing anti-police mentality; and the long wait to find out if we would be safe again were too much to bear at some points. I decry this behavior. I am appalled at what seems to be a blatant disregard for the lives of  our fellow man. Now blood has shed on both sides of this movement, no one’s hands are clean.

But I still have to ask: how can some people fail to acknowledge that there are systems in place that perpetuate the continued oppression of Black Americans (and other minorities) in this country? I mean does all the photographic and video evidence seem unbelievable to you? We are existing in a time where people willingly believe whatever reality TV (which is scripted by the way) is peddling, but not images of way too many people dying at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. I am going to stop right here and state that I do not believe that police officers are bad people, I will say that they structure in which they exist may be antiquarian, resulting in bad decisions and bad policing (in some cases).

Someone very close to me told me the other night “Anytime people unite for a cause involving the rights/treatment of black people, it is met with hate in this country. From the civil rights movement to BLM.” And I cannot disagree with him. Take for instance the uproar after Beyonce’s 2016 Superbowl Halftime performance. So her dancers came out wearing costumes reminiscent of the iconic Black Panther party…so what? Did that mean Beyonce’s “Formation” was a call to arms for a race war? Come off it people, where did that assumption come from? I surmised that it came from people’s one-sided perception of the Black Panther Party’s ‘malicious intent’ to overthrow the government. Charleston murderer Dylan Roof’s crazy man manifesto actually did call for a race war, other than a footnote mention on the news and podcasts, where was his public indictment? What we only drag people through the court of public opinion when we want them to stay in their lane?

If you haven’t already please check out PBS’s Independent Lens documentary Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. In this documentary, it is very clear that the FBI and the media at the time did no favors for the Black Panther’s public perception. What started out as a movement that included self-pride, free food for children and families, and attempts to mobilize citizens to assert their rights to justice was maligned and labeled as anti-government. And what could have been successful movement (I mean, we all acknowledge that there were internal leadership issues that also added to the party’s fall from grace) was fractured and vilified by outside forces. The good the party and the movement it wished to start would never be realized.

To me, it seems as if we are on the cusp of history repeating itself. The Black Lives Matter Movement is at risk of being put in the cross-hairs much like the Black Panther Party was. That is what we risk when people counter #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter. Of course all lives matter, but you cannot deny that we are getting the message that some lives matter more than others. And it is a message that has been evidenced by reactions to attempts to assert basic human (Abolition), civil rights (Civil Rights Movement), self-pride (The Black Panther Party) and public safety (Black Lives Matter Movement). I know that these are generalizations and distillations of history and centuries of work for equal rights, but it the pattern holds up. Throughout United States history, the majority of the country reacted to instances of Black Americans asserting their right of equal existence with extreme prejudice:

  • Abolition (in part) led to a freaking Civil War
  • The Civil Rights Movement led to police sanctioned violence against individuals and took the Supreme Court issuing HISTORIC decisions to force change. I would also argue that the assisination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also an unbalanced reaction to this movement
  • The Black Panther Party had it’s leaders targeted for arrest and assassinated by the FBI.

We are at risk of the Black Lives Matter movement being mislabeled as anti-police or pro-violence if we don’t drown out the spin doctors, the racists, and the ignorant among us. Please realize what the wrong side of history turned out to be for our predecessors, and get on the right side, maybe united we can start healing and fixing the broken systems.

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