By Vernon A. Williams
I saw more grown men cry in 2020 than all of my previous years combined. Most of these men were center stage via news media – either because of their celebrity, their immediate proximity to cases of injustices or being given a platform upon which to vent chronic frustration; implosions of exhausted spirits.
In the wake of the George Floyd murder, most were convinced that THIS outrage was more pronounced with more hope for positive outcomes than similar protests and demonstrations. That may eventually turn out to be truthful, and some corporate, governmental, and community changes were measurable. But by no means is this a time to relax in yet unsubstantiated confidence.
News of this week was a definite setback. On the same night that the “deep red” state of Georgia staged its election to maintain the status quo Republican conservatism in the U.S. Senate, the prosecutor in Kenosha, Wisconsin, announces that no crime was committed when police held the shirt of Jacob Blake and shot him in the back seven times – leaving him paralyzed.
In the perfunctory announcement of the decision, Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley maintained the requisite stoic expression as he calmly told reporters, “An exhaustive investigation was done…1,500 pages of police reports. No law enforcement officer will be charged.”
No one was shocked. That’s the sad reality. Both sides have grown to expect police assaults against unarmed Black men and women with no consequences. The routine is an immediate expression of concern, promise of an investigation, and the subsequent announcement that procedure was followed or officers’ lives were threatened.
Even with a man without a weapon, with his back to the arresting officers, with four children in his car, with clearly a calm – if not responsive – posture, no fault can be found when law enforcement is investigated from within. The indictment rate is minuscule, and the odds prosecuting white officers for Black cop shootings is even smaller.
Many Black men, women, and children would rather encounter a thief in the night than a white sworn so-called “peace officer” on a dark, deserted rural road or urban side street. No gang-banger threat perils the dread of flashing blue and red lights.
Skip the rhetoric that most cops are supposedly good, dedicated, hardworking, honest professionals. It doesn’t matter what the percentages for evil are when the risk is literally life or death. The greater question is, when will the “good cops” commit to cleaning up their precinct rooms and ridding the department of bad apples? The answer – never.
Law enforcement is a microcosm of greater American society. Lip-serving is more often given to progressive improvements than actual laws and policies. That’s why even though many of us are justifiably elated over the eviction from the White House scheduled this month, the nemesis of systemic racism will linger.
Campaign promises often become blurred in compromise once folk get into office. Most of us understand the gamesmanship of political rhetoric. To win, you have to rally the troops. But in reality, if anyone who believes the outcome of the Georgia senatorial election is everything, then they haven’t learned anything from the lessons of 2020.
A Democratic victory for both seats wouldn’t assure Utopia for the Blue Legions. Neither would a Republican sweep of the runoff spell apocalyptic doom. To find truth in hyperbole, start by looking at the middle. Extreme expectations set you up for failure.
Remember when President Obama had his party in both the Senate and House of Representatives. There were no “promised land” acts of Congress. There are so many folk conspicuously opposed to the progress of Black Americans that when they subtly team with closet bigots and hypocrites, the status quo is too often maintained.
Nonetheless, the resistance movement must persist if we ever hope to reach a point where more Black men are crying tears of joy because those who fight for change are relentless. On one hand, yes, we need to temper our enthusiasm. Deep-seated bias, bigotry, and discrimination was prevalent way before 45 and will be there long after he is gone. But we can never buy into the notion that lasting change is elusive.
Feel good about the incoming administration and, in the minds of many, the rebirth of civility in the highest level of government. Make no mistake. Getting rid of Agent Orange is an accomplishment no one should diminish. Four more years of that rogue administration was unfathomable. But temper your elation with the somber commitment to stay vigilant; fighting as if nothing changed.