There is no war in Ba Sing Se

Earlier today on Twitter, Chuck Wendig posted:

Every week, every month, every year, another story, the same story told over again. White police killing unarmed black men. White men on the street killing unarmed black men. Because they thought the black men were armed. Because they felt threatened. Because they were afraid for their lives. Because the black man didn’t obey fast enough, was wearing a hoodie, was playing his music too loud. And time and time again, verdicts handed down that say, that makes sense. Of course you were afraid; of course you killed to protect yourself from the threat that wasn’t there.

I think about what I feel like, as a white woman of less than Amazonian build, walking down the street alone at night. Tensing up just that little bit when I see someone else approaching; tensing up that little bit more when I see that it’s a man. I imagine what it would be like to be a black man, and to tense up that little bit more when I see it’s a police officer. To see such a person as a hazard, rather than an ally if trouble occurs.

An op-ed in the New York Times today said,

Any police department that tolerates such conduct, and whose officers are unable or unwilling to defuse such confrontations without killing people, needs to be reformed.

This is fundamental. When we have riot police on the streets in military gear, SWAT teams burning infants with stun grenades, tanks rolling through suburbia because they’re army surplus and they might as well go somewhere — then something has gone so profoundly wrong I don’t have the words to describe it. When police turn their force against black men who have done nothing to deserve it, I can’t say “something has gone wrong,” because that implies it was ever right to begin with. But this is just a new verse in the same song. From its very founding, the relationship between the United States of America and its black citizens has been wrong. (The relationship between the United States of America and any of its minority citizens.) This country has used every tool at its disposal, from law to money to rhetoric to armed violence, to preserve the imbalance against them. Our steps in the other direction have been too few, too small, too often reversed with steps in the other direction. The problem hasn’t gone away. It’s right there today, tonight, all around us.

We need to reform a lot more than just the police. But the police are a place to start. If we cannot trust them, then we cannot trust anything that follows.

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