Ok Boomer, Ok Zoomer: Thoughts on the Black Lives Matter Movement
Last updated 6/25/2020 at 9:46am
Publisher Paul Archipley and Mill Creek editor Emily Gilbert are at opposite ends of the generational gap. He is a Baby Boomer; she is a member of Generation Z. In this regular feature, they share their thoughts on issues of the day.
Paul: Hi Emily. I went to the Black Lives Matter rally in Mukilteo on June 7. I think everybody, including the organizers, was surprised at the turnout. Easily more than a thousand people. I went because the reporter in me thought I should be there, even though I knew my Mukilteo editor would be covering it, but more so because I felt the need to do something, anything, to support the cause.
Emily: I know the feeling.
Paul: Being white and living in a largely white community, I’ve been insulated from the issue. I know one black person. He and I have had interesting discussions over the past few years about race, so I’d like to think I’m not clueless. But like so many other white people, I imagine I’ve got plenty of blind spots, and I’m trying to open my eyes. Lately, I’ve been watching some James Baldwin talks from 50+ years ago. Brilliant guy, whose views are as relevant and insightful today as they were then.
In particular, I’m struck by his point that white slave traders and owners, in the kidnapping and enslaving a race of people, essentially erased their history and culture, wiped their past clean, so that their African heritage all-but disappeared. At the same time, they denied black slaves and their descendants, to this day, full entry into a new culture and society. Even in the original Constitutional Convention, slaves were considered three-fifths of a human being. I imagine some black people feel they’re still being treated that way. Recent events suggest that is so.
Emily: I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to share my thoughts about the Black Lives Matter movement, since I am also white – I know that I haven’t experienced this country the same way black people have. I think the protests in response to the death of George Floyd have brought systemic racism to the forefront of people’s minds, even people who may have been unaware or ignored it when it happened before with the events in Ferguson a few years ago.
Paul: Yes. For whatever reason, this time white people are waking up to the racism that has existed here for centuries. Certainly, the video of George Floyd being murdered by a white police officer had a huge impact. It was essentially “a lynching” in another form.
Emily: I was on Twitter the other day (that media-saturated hellscape, that does, on occasion, offer really interesting discussions), and I saw a thread by a black man that went through all of his interactions with police in his life. Then I saw a white man, further down in the thread, who said he hadn’t experienced police in the same way at all and did his own thread of his own experiences. He was acknowledging his privilege, and I think it was a really interesting juxtaposition of experience.
I’ll give an example of my own. I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop when I was in high school for expired tags. It was the first time I’d ever been pulled over. I was scared of the guy, but I was more afraid of getting a ticket than I was of him escalating the situation.
I swear, I was a mess – I was 17, was stressed out because I was late for something, and all of my maintenance receipts were mixed in with the vehicle registration and insurance, so it took me a long time to find it. He wasn’t mad, but I could tell he was getting impatient. Eventually, I found them, and he gave me a warning but said I had to replace them in four days (the next time he was on duty I suppose).
But the thing I want to highlight here is – I was afraid of getting a ticket, of having to pay a fee. I didn’t even get one.
Now I think, if I had been black, my biggest fear would not have just been getting a ticket – my fear would’ve been much worse. And I probably would’ve gotten the ticket.
Paul: Driving while black is not a crime, and yet seemingly every black person has many stories about being pulled over, often for some lame excuse. Did you see the story the other day about the two black teens who were roughed up for jaywalking?
I agree with people who support the police, and argue that most cops are good, hardworking men and women who went into law enforcement to help people. But giving the bad cops a pass when they should be called out only hurts the good cops. Unions have to find ways to weed out the bad, rather than protect them, as is so often the case.
Emily: I understand that there are good cops, but I’m starting to think that they aren’t enough. I fully acknowledge there are bad cops and they make the job harder for people who want to do good work. Before the current Black Lives Matter protests, I kind of just thought the bad cops we saw in the news were the only ones ... but then I keep hearing people say that no, there are many bad cops and that we are only seeing the ones captured on video. I believe them – how else would we have such a problem with police brutality against black people?
I don’t know if I would say all cops are bad cops, but I do think there is something inherent to the profession, affecting “good cops” and “bad cops” both, that gives them the power to treat black people so badly. I don’t think it’s enough to only go after the bad cops anymore. I think we need major reform for all cops. I don’t know exactly what that would look like, but I think restricting police union power would be a start.