All societies have what Emile Durkheim, a noted sociologist, called collective consciousness. This collective consciousness is the shared norms, beliefs, and values of our communities, states, and country. What do we value and believe in as Americans? I do not accept our shared values, norms, and beliefs include the murder of unarmed, handcuffed citizens who are in the custody of the police or jogging down the street or sleeping in their beds or playing a game with their nephew in their living room.
I am a black woman who lost a friend over our conflicting views about electing Donald Trump for president versus Hillary Clinton. I still feel bad that this white woman who I had cared about for almost 25 years and had done diversity training with did not see the racism and sexism and the lack of compassion in her candidate of choice. It reminded me of a truth all black people know; the world is a different place for white people and black. Never has this truth become more apparent than last week when we watched George Floyd repeatedly die on international television and social media.
I felt as though I couldn’t breathe each time I saw it, my eyes filled with tears, I broke out in a sweat, and I closed my eyes and then forced myself to open them and see what I fear is true, Black bodies, black lives do not matter to America. America is like the husband I love but fear because his generosity and affection can change without provocation or rationality to violence and cruelty. America beats black people, sometimes beats us to death.
I joined IWP the Institute for Women in Politics because of that friend I lost. I wanted to work on my tolerance and acceptance. I wanted to know what influenced smart, kind, mainly white Americans to see the world so differently, than me regarding significant social and political issues. IWP is non-partisan with a central goal that all members share, which is to get more good women in civic leadership and public office. We know that women in political office are more willing to collaborate across partisan lines and to focus on social change efforts to benefit women and families. Police violence is a family issue; America is killing its children, and we must make it stop.
Black men are 2.5 times more likely to die when they encounter the police than white men. Black and native women and children also have a much higher rate of death by the police than white women and children. Inequality in America is real and toxic for people of color. It means that we are more likely to die from violence and the stresses that living in a world that stigmatizes you causes. Being black even means that we are more likely to die from the coronavirus.
When I was younger, I marched and protested, wrote speeches, gave speeches, wrote articles, etc. This time I sat at home and watched with pride, grief and fear the mostly young people of America of all races march for justice for George Floyd and change for all of us. Most peacefully called for justice, but some victims hit back, and some opportunist tried unsuccessfully to steal the meaning from the protest. Today I almost cried with relief, joy and sadness about the decision to charge the four officers who participated in killing George Floyd. This is a step in the right direction to social change, but why was it so hard to get?
What can we all do to stop the unjust killing of black, Latino, and Native Americans? The most important thing we can all do is to vote for and support diverse political and civic leadership or run for office. Use the political process to develop and support criminal justice reforms such as:
The development of a citizen review panel to evaluate, along with police internal affairs, any case that involves police violence and to analyze data by race, class, and gender community arrest rates and charge comparisons.
Fund and support more community policing programs that include citizen volunteers.
Provide training for police officers that focus on arrest and interaction skills that are not life-threatening.
We spend money and time on what we value, so does our collective consciousness include value and belief in changing the policies and processes that have allowed systemic racism to thrive in our police departments and criminal justice systems? I hope so.
Rosalind Fisher is an Instructor of sociology and women’s studies at the University of West Florida and a former member of the IWP Board of Directors. To inquire about events or membership in the Institute, email email@example.com.
Read this article online: Pensacola News Journal