Monday, January 25, 2021

Do We Really Care About Justice for All?

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The emails came fast and furious in a single day, from diverse sources who shared a single message: The food blogger, the editors’ professional association and the classical music radio station assured me they stood in solidarity with those protesting systemic racism and police brutality.  

I felt sick over the despicable death of George Floyd, but the emails were irritating. The virtue signaling was de rigueur, but the selective call for justice was appalling. While “standing beside those who are calling for a more just, compassionate society, free of racism,” not a single one expressed dismay, outrage or a shred of compassion for the victims of the violent riots roiling our cities. Not a word of sympathy or empathy for the small business owners — many of whom are minorities in already hard-hit communities — devastated and violated by the looters demolishing their livelihoods and turning their neighborhoods into war zones.

Not a word about how the nihilistic violence undermines the cause of the peaceful gatherings. George Floyd’s family and girlfriend poignantly expressed this to the media, stating that he would have been devastated by the violence engulfing Minneapolis.

Not a word of concern for the safety of protesters from COVID-19, although these same communicators had encouraged us to make the best of it as we sheltered at home. In fact, the emails tacitly endorsed the gatherings. 

Not a word in support of law enforcement officers who are increasingly and unjustly being viewed as the enemy, yet who rush into the mobs day and night, and who are the targets of bricks, stones, Molotov cocktails and sometimes bullets.  

Not a word of outrage or grief for the African American police officers, including the 77-year-old retired Capt. David Dorn in St. Louis and David Patrick Underwood, 53, in Oakland, who were slain by looters while in uniform. Maybe some black lives matter more than others.

Not a word of empathy for the millions of people who were on lockdown again, frightened by incessant police sirens and helicopters whirring overhead and wondering, were those just gunshots we heard?   

Where was their compassion for the victims of this terror?

Where was their compassion for the victims of this terror?

Outrage and grief over the death of George Floyd must not blind us to the danger of growing anarchy in the streets. When law enforcement is demonized as a whole, we face looming catastrophe. Maybe it was a bad idea to start calling police officers “pigs.” 

With police increasingly accused of abusive tactics, even unfairly, it leads to “police nullification,” when officers refuse to answer certain calls in the most dangerous neighborhoods. The poorest minority neighborhoods therefore suffer the most, with skyrocketing shootings and homicides. But the consequences of demonizing law enforcement will be widespread. Last year, 86% percent of police chiefs nationwide said recruitment had declined since 2014. Resources are so tight in some cities that many 911 calls are ignored. 

Heather Mac Donald, author of “The War on Cops,” (2016), deems the notion of systemic police racism a myth, and her June 3 article in The Wall Street Journal is a crucial read. According to a Washington Post database, police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015. “Those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African Americans killed in 2019, while a police officer is 18 1/2 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer,” Mac Donald wrote.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has pleaded with citizens to stop the rioting. She said, “I am a mother to four black children in America. And when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt. … [But] this is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. You are disgracing our city, you are disgracing the life of George Floyd. This is chaos, and we’re buying into it. Go home!”

George Floyd’s killer and the men who abetted him will face justice. Now it’s time to speak out against the riots against law enforcement that endanger us all. 

Judy Gruen’s most recent book is “The Skeptic and the Rabbi: Falling in Love With Faith.” 

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