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The time is ripe for change

Melvin B. Miller
The time is ripe for change
“I hope our lives matter, too.”

White supremacy is under attack. In past generations, it was passively assumed by many in the white intelligentsia that blacks were inferior. However, the recent brutal assassination of George Floyd by Minneapolis police presented an unacceptable aspect of racism in America. Racially mixed protesters marched daily for weeks in opposition to the brutality. Sympathetic demonstrations in London, Paris and other developed countries became a national embarrassment. Analysts are still uncertain about what caused the nation’s change in attitude toward racism.

At least two factors were significant. One is that video camera technology enabled the whole nation to witness, at least in replay, the savage police killing of George Floyd. However, photos of lynchings in the South in earlier times were even more gruesome but they never inspired Congress to pass a federal anti-lynching law, even to this day.

The other factor is that educated white youth suddenly became aware that the police, the storm troopers of white racism, had become too powerful and too dangerous. What could induce a police officer to kill a black suspect over a counterfeit $20 bill? There is no doubt that white demonstrators were primarily sympathetic to the effort to end black suppression, but their enthusiasm was undoubtedly heightened by an awareness that they have also become potential victims.

The slogan “Black Lives Matter” seemed to offend some whites, but over time, it must have caused some whites to question whether white lives also matter, or not, to the police. According to the record of cop shootings that is maintained by the Washington Post, 1,002 citizens were shot to death by the police in America in 2019 and 40% were white and 25% were black. More whites than blacks are fatally shot by the police every year.

The assault by two Buffalo police officers on an unarmed elderly white protester indicates that everyone is fair game for the racist police storm troopers. Perhaps some astute whites are beginning to understand a truth that blacks have long believed. The whites in power have been trying from post-slavery days to maintain a separation between blacks and working-class whites in order to prevent a political merger of their similar economic interests.

When slavery was legal, it was easy to identify blacks as the pitiable class. The rank oppression has left its mark on black achievement. But with the passage of time, it became more difficult to deny blacks opportunities, and some blacks have performed spectacularly. That is why Donald Trump hates his predecessor so. Barack Obama was a much greater president than Trump can ever hope to become.

Now there is an opportunity to restructure the police so that one of their major tasks will no longer be to function as the strong arm of racial oppression. A major role of government should be to ameliorate the damage done by years of racial discrimination and oppression. Just think of the changes that could occur with health care for all and quality education.

Lest critical whites believe that this would become racially preferential treatment for blacks, it is time to understand that 18,080,900 whites were classified as poor in America in 2018, more than twice the number of poor blacks. This is before the pandemic struck. Now is the time for poor and working class whites to free themselves from the delusion that they are favored by the affluent members of their ethnic group. Change would benefit everyone.

George Floyd’s brutal death brought together a multiracial cadre of visionaries. With continued collaboration, we can achieve the desired social change. The rights and privileges that are enunciated in the Declaration of Independence can be established for all citizens.

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