By: Jason Newman, CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of Muncie—
Yet another killing of a black man by police officers has hit social media. As always happens, the videos, and commentary, with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, are going viral. These videos, and commentaries, are usually responded to with some form of “we don’t know the full story, but…” Responses fly back and forth, with people getting angrier, sadder, and more disconnected from their neighbors. At some point, we get to a time when we are just too angry, or too tired, or too overwhelmed to talk about it anymore. So, we stop, until it happens again.
George Floyd was a man who was killed by police in Minneapolis. I do not know everything that happened. It doesn’t matter. This man was killed when he should not have been. The four officers involved were fired, immediately, and the FBI is investigating the case. These are all great first steps. It is not enough.
But what do we do? Here, in Muncie? What can we do, now, to start on the road towards making sure that all of our communities are safe?
As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t know. I know that we need to have some starting points. As a citizen, and as a human, I know that I need to support all of the people in my community. As the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Muncie, I need to create a safe space for all of our kids to come, and sit, and work together. It is our kids, who are hurt when we can’t trust that the police are really trying to help protect them. I cannot lead this conversation, but I can try to get it started.
There is a generational mistrust of law enforcement, especially in the black community. Here’s where I call on my fellow white community members, and my friends in the local police department. We need to step up and reach out to the communities that have been marginalized, targeted, and afraid for too long. We need to sit down and talk, and more importantly, to listen. We need to find opportunities for our community to interact with our police officers in a positive manner. We need to keep having these conversations, openly, and honestly with people who don’t look like us. The fear that we have that we will hear uncomfortable truths is nothing compared to the fear that our young black men, and young black women have each and every day. We have done some of this, recently, but it’s not enough.
While I’m relieved to see white people, like me, sharing these stories when they come out, it’s not enough to share the stories, and then on top of it, add our condemnation. It’s not enough to increase our patronage of black owned businesses. It’s not enough to find a Black Lives Matter bumper sticker to put on our cars. All of these are good things, but it’s not enough. There are good, local, cops. Last week, when I had a Club Family in need of groceries, an entire shift went shopping to deliver groceries to that family. The officer I spoke with did not know anything about the family in need, not their name, address, or ethnicity. They showed up. I call on those officers, black, and white, to work together with our communities to start building these relationships, so we can all be safer.
There are many dangerous situations our kids may encounter in a lifetime. Being black should not be one of them. Let’s do something about that.